RSI Roundup: Earth Day 2023

Anna Otieno, Head of Research, Strategy & Insights

Carli Gernot, Content Development Specialist

Happy Earth Day, Ya’ll

Our agency Research, Strategy, & Insights (RSI) team keeps tabs on all the latest consumer and industry trends. So in honor of Earth Day, we’re bringing you a roundup of recent New Engen RSI reports covering sustainability and business in 2023.

Resale and the U.S. Secondhand Market

Earlier this year, our RSI team unpacked the proliferation of reCommerce programs in their article, Waste Not, Want Not. Many brands, from Balenciaga to Goodwill, have launched resale programs or expanded on existing offerings. According to a 2022 report from OfferUp, so many players have entered the field that the number of companies offering resale programs has increased by 275% since 2020.

This upward trend is expected to continue into 2023, as consumers grapple with an unpredictable economy while continuing to demand sustainable products and services. New Engen’s RSI team argues that brands with resale programs not only show up for consumers in an authentic way, but also have an opportunity to engage their customers in a long-lasting cycle of buying and reselling.

REI is Setting the Bar for Ethical Practices

REI Co-op is updating its new Product Impact Standards in order to advance more sustainable and inclusive business practices in retail. The standards are meant to provide a fresh opportunity for REI’s 1,000+ brand partners to meet elevated expectations around fighting climate change, advancing inclusion in the outdoors, and managing chemicals. Plus, REI has committed to maintaining the same standards the co-op is asking partner brands to follow:

  • Brands must measure greenhouse gas emissions and meet new emissions reduction targets.
  • Partner brands are now expected to advance equity across outdoor gear and apparel, in particular, product price consistency across sizes (including plus sizes), inclusive sizing, and inclusive offerings for a range of hair types.
  • Brands must work to ensure industry adherence to new state laws regarding PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.”

These updated standards are just the latest steps that REI has taken toward sustainability, following a 2022 decision to opt out of Black Friday, and the announcement in 2021 that it would offer expanded sizing in all stores. GWI’s Connect the Dots 2023 report shows that 39% of consumers say they expect brands to “be socially responsible.” REI continues to build on what it means to be ethically responsible and what the notion of “corporate social responsibility” means in practice.

Product Placement, But Make it Green

General Motors and Netflix are working together on the “Everybody In” campaign, created to accelerate the mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). The sustainability initiative from General Motors is a “call to action meant to reflect a movement that’s inclusive and accessible.” Netflix has committed to increasing the presence of EVs on Netflix-produced content and is pledging to take steps to enable more sustainable productions. GM electric vehicles will appear in Netflix originals, including Love is Blind, Queer Eye, and Unstable. The campaign kicked off in February with a Super Bowl ad starring Will Ferrel that highlighted both companies’ commitments to sustainability.

According to TechCrunch, GM is not paying Netflix for the placement of EVs in streaming content — GM is a partner on Netflix’s ad-supported tier and the partnership between the two corporations is not part of any advertising deal. The aim of the collaboration is to expose consumers to EVs in an organic way.

For consumers who have high expectations of brands when it comes to improving sustainable practices, it will be increasingly important for companies to walk the walk and provide evidence of their efforts to make greener choices. The collaboration between GM and Netflix displays the power of partnership and how working together can amplify the best attempts of both brands at making good on sustainability pledges.

Winning Over Gen Z

Today’s teens and young adults have evolving views about ethical consumerism and are more likely to care about how brands are making a positive impact locally rather than globally. Gen Z is largely focused on issues at home, and most of them aren’t impressed with the current state of affairs - according to Morning Consult’s December 2022 survey of Gen Z Americans, just 16% of respondents said they were proud to live in the U.S.

For young people, loyalty and ethical consumerism are connected. As per a 2022 study commissioned by Snap Inc and Omnicom Media Group, 75% of Gen Zs said they were more likely to be loyal to a company that speaks to social issues. When it comes to which social issues this age group feels most strongly about, Gen Z is certainly focused on societal elements that impact their lives directly:

  • 62% said they favor brands that have fair labor policies/treatment of employees
  • 63% prefer brands that promote healthy and inclusive workplace cultures
  • 62% favor brands that have sustainable manufacturing practices.

It may sound like a cliché, but young people are the future, and the future of corporate responsibility seems to be tied more to domestic issues than global problems. Business leaders must consider how this generation sees communities, how they view social ills, and their particular take on activism. Directly collaborating with young people and the issues that impact them will be key for companies hoping to authenticate their attempts at fighting the good fight. Empowering members of Gen Z to lead or inspire corporate social responsibility campaigns will go a long way to building relationships with consumers who can lead a brand into a successful future.

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