How you can help drive a low-carbon future
Lena Henry, Whirlpool UK & Ireland MD, explains how the home appliance sector can help drive a low-carbon future by highlighting how ‘greener’ choices can also help save people money
Barely a day has gone by in recent months when some form of sustainability story hasn’t hit the news. From the recent COP27 climate summit, to the changing global weather systems and Greta Thunberg releasing her new tome, The Climate Book, acting to save our planet before it’s too late is now becoming an urgent imperative for everyone.
While times might seem tough, especially with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and threat of a recession, the good news is that there are tangible differences that everyone can make towards reversing climate change, all while benefiting financially. Consumers, for example, can choose appliances that are more efficient than others – and when it comes to lifetime running costs, the higher the rating, the more money consumers can save.
For retailers, selling the sustainability message can require more buy-in, and take longer to convert into sales. This is mainly down to consumers not fully understanding sustainability and the benefits it brings to them. With many also quickly dismissing sustainability initiatives from brands and retailers as ‘green-washing’, there’s also a level of trust and commitment organisations have to nurture if they are pursuing sustainability.
The responsible consumer
The growing awareness of choosing environmentally-friendly products has been driven by the younger generations and their passion is spreading. According to The World Economic Forum (WE Forum), three-quarters of Gen Z would prefer to buy from a sustainable brand than a well-known brand, and Gen X’s sustainable product purchases have increased by 24% since 2019, showing their influence on other generations.
It’s clear that there is an appetite for purchasing sustainable brands, despite the current climate and the cost-of-living crisis. The sweet spot for retailers is finding the balance between focusing on the messages of the importance of sustainability, and how making eco-friendlier choices can save people money.
One of the many mistakes that consumer-facing companies can make when pushing their eco-credentials is the message and benefits these credentials bring to the consumer. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) reports, carbon neutral targets and other corporate sustainability initiatives are great to show the progress towards climate change success on a large, corporate scale, but these won’t cut through to the consumer.
Retailers and manufacturers need to think about how to translate and apply these credentials into something that can be digested and understood by the consumer. In the home appliance sector, for example, messaging should drive home facts about how dishwashers use less water than handwashing; or how washing machines with integrated sensors use the correct amount of resources, saving up to 70% in energy and time. Brands must also support retailers in promoting the benefits of apps that, for example, display different program running costs and off-peak tariff times, so that consumers can benefit from more cost-effective (and eco-friendly) laundry cycles.
These cycles can take much longer than standard settings, but what consumers often don’t realise is that they actually save a considerable amount of energy compared with shorter, more energy-intensive settings. Again, pointing out these small, but significant, features of sustainability to the consumer can not only drive further awareness of sustainability, but also save users money, which is ultimately the strongest selling point for retailers.
Put simply, brands should focus on selling the features of the appliances that consumers most think they can benefit from, in a way that ensures they will also choose the most sustainability-friendly features, too.
By ignoring, consumers’ shifting attitudes toward brands and sustainability, retailers are only denting their potential profits and not evolving their approach to sales. While there is evidence that the retail industry is directing its strategy and investments toward responsible growth, the home appliance sector still has a long way to go.
Ultimately, retailers must find the balance between upselling what works, but also shifting their sales strategy towards a more consumer-friendly approach that takes into account sustainability. Selling the sustainability story is easier than retailers might think when done in the right way, and it may also close a vital sales gap.