SUSTAINABLY SPEAKING, WITH DR. DAN
Why Sustainability at Blue Diamond ? Sales. For quite a while now, Blue Diamond has been explaining to members that our efforts at creating a sustainability program are driven by our customers. We’ve explained that the number of big customers asking pointed questions about our sustainability efforts has been increasing each year. Yet, I know that some members equate sustainability with a brand of politics and suspect that instead of selling almonds, we’re “selling out.” I wanted to use this column to assure members that far from “selling out,” we’re absolutely focused on sales for their benefit when we create sustainability programs.
From 2013–2018 sales data showed that while the share of market for sustainably marketed products was less than 17%, these products were responsible for 50% of all market growth during the same period. But for many customers, sustainability is a positive sales opportunity. I’ve been following research on consumer interest in sustainability since 2005. In the early days of tracking consumer interest, it was clear that a subset of consumers in the U.S. were interested in sustainability, but most were not interested in paying extra for it. But since 2005, the Millennial generation has emerged into adulthood and even Generation Z behind them is entering the workforce. These generations have altered the narrative. A majority of consumers now say they are interested in sustainability, not a subset. The younger generations, in particular, seek out brands built entirely around sustainability and are willing to pay extra for these brands. The perception is that they are thereby investing in health, the environment, and community development, though one could also argue that they are investing in status symbols. Either way, from 2013-2018 sales data showed that while the share of market for sustainably
I’ve been at Blue Diamond for nearly 11 months as of writing this article. In that time, the number of requests from customers, our sales partners, or our sales staff for sustainability data or presentation materials has been running about a rate of one every 10 days. And the rate is accelerating. Sometimes it takes multiple days to complete the data request from a customer, while others are more quickly completed. Why are these customers putting effort into this ? For some customers, the process is defensive — they don’t want to be sourcing from suppliers that may give them a “black eye” if a story hits the news about environmental abuses. That could negatively impact their sales by turning consumers away from purchasing. Some customers are motivated by climate change and related concerns that one could be characterize as political.
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