Reducing the use of plastics is the top action businesses can take to make shoppers want their products, research shows.
Consumers are demanding more on sustainability and climate action, which is forcing retailers to come up with new ways to win trust, loyalty and dollars.
Plastic reduction tops the list of corporate social responsibility programs for Australian shoppers, according to research by the Queensland University of Technology for the Australian Retail Association.
Reducing the use of plastics was considered more important than simply recycling, consumer expert Gary Mortimer said on Wednesday.
Most Australian states and territories already ban plastic bags, and some are moving to outlaw plastic plates, cups, cutlery, coffee lids, stirrers, straws, polystyrene food containers, helium balloons and microbeads in cosmetics.
Many large retailers are using international standards to reduce their exposure to environmental, financial and regulatory risks from climate change, carbon emissions and particularly the use of plastics.
Some are going above and beyond government mandates in eradicating plastic items ahead of time, with more items to be banned in Western Australia and the ACT from July 1.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said retailers showing leadership in eradicating plastics are rewarded by their customers.
“Consumers have spoken – they want to see action on plastics given their unacceptable impact on the natural environment,” he said.
“They’re going to be drawn to the brands that are showing leadership on this front compared to those who are dragging the chain.”
But he is concerned for small businesses who have been in survival mode for the past two years.
They need additional flexibility in switching to more sustainable products, he said.
The QUT poll of more than 600 consumers found a plastic-reduction program created more positive outcomes than a storewide discount.
The research grouped the top five “corporate social responsibility tactics” that have the most influence with consumers.
Environmental: Plastic reduction
Philanthropic: Healthy food choices for children
Environmental: Plastic recycling
Legal: Fair trade with no forced labour
Ethical: Racial equality.
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