Nepa India releases report on sustainability

While green issues are at the heart of sustainability globally, for Indian consumers, human rights, gender rights and equitable society also form the basis for sustainable future, says study

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Nov 2, 2021 3:36 PM  | 5 min read

Nepa, a Consumer Research and Analytics company, concluded a study to uncover the meaning of sustainability and relevance of the theme for Indian consumers. The study encompasses digital surveys across 2000 consumers aged 18-45 years in 8 cities, 100+ qualitative listen-ins from relevant social media forums across 20 days and lastly, inlaid with industry expert interviews on the topic.

As per the latest Nepa research, "Sustainability" in India is not just about 'going green’ but also topped with societal needs such as equality, inclusiveness, and wellbeing. Interestingly, micro themes on environment appear as only broad runners-up, which is a different narrative than Nepa’s work done in selected developed markets.
The term "sustainability", even to an informed individual, evokes multiple connotations and yet nothing specific. Loosely it carries associations with eco-conservation, but today's Indian consumer tells us a different story of what they consider as "sustainable" and how it affects or does not affect their perception or purchase.

While green issues are at the heart of sustainability globally, for Indian consumers, it also means evolving around – human rights, gender rights and creating an equitable society also form the basis for a sustainable future. Thus, in the Indian context, it is Social basics + Green = Sustainability.

"We had seen in our work last year around the pandemic impact that some priorities for consumers will see a lasting transformation. One of them was how we consume things. Focus on Sustainability and emphasis on the multifunctionality of brands became the new brand purpose for the marketer. We wanted to see how this transcends today, how well does the consumer comprehend this concept. Legacy categories are talking about their clear conscious agendas, transforming on the way. And emerging categories are getting it in their DNA from the get-go. The report focuses on how consumers perceive the brands on this spectrum, chasing a similar North Star." said Esha Nagar, Managing Director Nepa India.

Interestingly, even though developed markets were first to market "sustainability", specific traditional categories in India, such as FMCG brands, have been educating consumers on its importance and stance. And has that paid off? For Indian consumers, Sustainability does not translate immediately to usage, but they are warming up. Nepa found a direct correlation between Sustainability and consideration towards using/purchasing a brand.
Nepa used their proprietary Brand Touch Map to identify the communication tonalities that dominate consumers' perception of a brand.
Nagar explained, “When we overlaid the consumer survey results on the Nepa Brand Touch map for different categories and brands on Sustainability, we discovered a more nuanced story on how India sees Sustainability. We discovered that for consumers, brands considered more 'sustainable' were those who lie on the 'Caretaker' and 'Friend' sectors in the perceptual map. The implication for the brand marketeer is that positive friend-like tonality versus a more radical or trend-based approach can help you build a more robust sustainability perception.”

"Due to increased advocacy, observation & scrutiny, companies surely acknowledge the "need to be sustainable". Therefore, brand storytelling (including visual branding, comms, PR, ORM) has gained more weightage than ever before. Sustainability-based course correction is often considered expensive or drastic but could have a broader/stronger impact on mass consumers." as per Viral Jani, SVP Investments Timesbridge. 

Established categories like FMCG and e-commerce have helped spread the message of Sustainability via their communication. Hence promoting their measures is an external communication factor - something that is visible to the consumer. While emerging categories in the consumer tech domain – food delivery services, digital education, digital health etc., are looking at Sustainability through an internal + external lens from the start.

"From a consumer standpoint, Sustainability means something related to the environment or money made by people who are involved in producing something. We're employee & faculty-focused, as much as we are learner-focused. We celebrate our employees & faculty. They're our torchbearers, and we ensure that they're well taken care of. The skillsets they provide help the organization running. We need to keep improving capabilities of our employees and faculty (both academic & industry instructors) to be sustainable in the long run," said Arjun Mohan, CEO - India, upGrad.

Continuing a similar theme, Jani added, "Digital companies behave differently on Sustainability. There is a focus on faster adoption & course correction. Inspired by homegrown attributes, local-global confluences, and accessible platforms - they are naturally closer to sustainable goals. Lastly, they are more open to peer-to-peer collaboration than territorial competition. On the other hand, small & medium businesses represent a lesser carbon footprint and more direct impact on local ecosystems. Thus, scoring popular vote and growing fast through e-commerce; digital media is playing a huge role in levelling the playing field for small brands & closing the gap between consumer intent and consumer action."

The report also explores the two routes of Sustainability - by voice and by choice. It is not just about communication attributes but also the internalization of the concept.
Indian consumers understand Sustainability. 1 in 2 consumers are likely to continue using the top sustainable brands. However, as the awareness picks up, brands that are first to capitalize on this theme are sure to benefit in the long term.
"India is a solid conscious aspirant. So as a brand in India, it is essential to know the context, the consumer's understanding of the theme and all related aspects. Talking Green+ will build a holistic, sustainable perception of the brand, and using the right tonality for communication will have maximum resonance.", Nagar further concluded.


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