Exclusive study for Invisible Nature: How Responsible are Romanians in their Shopping Behavior?
In this article, we assess individuals’ attitudes towards companies’ efforts to become more sustainable and responsible. In this context, we conducted a study in partnership with Invisible Nature, a company whose mission is to offer businesses, authorities and NGOs impactful solutions that lead to system-level changes for a sustainable future.
The research consisted of an online survey conducted on our platform between 23rd and 28th of February www.questia.ro with 500 respondents, aged 25-50 years old. In terms of topics approached, we focused on: the importance of “made in” label for consumers, the reasons for choosing different types of products, the awareness of ingredients/ composition materials etc.
In the last years, several key considerations for global corporations have been raised concerned about the ethics of their business: worker rights and safety, living wages, health and safety, and environmental and social stewardship, only to name a few.
Briefly, ethical sourcing refers to the process of ensuring the products being sourced are obtained in a responsible and sustainable way, that the workers involved in making them are safe and treated fairly and that environmental and social impacts are taken into consideration during the sourcing process. Ethical sourcing also means that the procurement process respects international standards against criminal conduct and human rights abuses and responds to these issues immediately if identified. For companies, these ethical and sustainability efforts are often linked to business factors such as reducing costs and improving brand image. But how much do these issues affect where consumers shop and what they buy?
KPMG consulting company declares that awareness around sustainable and ethical sourcing has really grown and company efforts are not only just about building up a brand. A survey of 1,123 US consumers shows significant concern about ethical and responsible production, particularly in food and beverage, clothing and footwear, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Another survey carried by Nielsen shows that 55% of the world’s online shoppers say they would be willing to spend more for ethically and sustainably produced goods and services. These results are encouraging, but limited: they focus on what consumers say, and not necessarily what they do.
A series of studies suggests that, while a product’s ethics may influence purchasing decisions, many shoppers choose simply not to know whether something was ethically made, including shoppers who care about social responsibility. Moreover, shoppers who ignore ethical matters can even develop a negative opinion about people who do express ethical concerns—which makes them even less likely to pay attention to ethical issues in the future.
Thus, declaratively consumers say that they care about product’s ethics, however their behaviors might show the opposite. We could say that choosing the ethical route is much easier when costs are reduced – weather costs are associated with time, money or emotional stress. Information is also key, however, as shown, information does not necessarily trigger action. With this insight in mind, in this article, we take a closer look at respondents’ choice for ethically and sustainably sourced products in Romania.
Generally speaking, respondents declare going shopping for grocery and care products mostly in hypermarkets (81.9%). In terms of groceries bought, people are buying a wide range of products: diaries, vegetables, fruit, meats and cold cuts, bakeries, non-alcoholic drinks, coffee and tea. The same applies also for care products, respondents acquisitioning both skin and hair care products.
Regarding the origin of the products bought, almost 2/3 of respondents (63.2%) declare buying both local and international products.
When thinking of reasons for buying local products, people invoke both rational aspects - they are more natural (61.6%), have a better quality (54.4%) – but also emotional ones – the desire to sustain the local economy (49.3%).
When it comes to triggers for buying different types of products, at least at a declarative level, price occupies the first place (76%), yet closely followed by a list of ingredients/ content (74.2%). This rather makes sense, as people usually do not invoke only the price as main reason, but the value/ benefits they get for what they pay. However, the origin of the products and the different product sustainability certifications/labels have to follow on the next places, but at a relative high gap.
Also, in terms of apparel, respondents declare buying a wide range of products (e.g. fashion, accessories, shoes), both “made in” Romania, as well as other countries (67.9%).
The reasons for choosing Romanian products are similar to grocery and care products, namely the better quality (49.3%) and the intrinsic drive to sustain local economy (49.1%). However, a third reason emerges centered around the perceived better price for local products (46.2%).
In terms of triggers for acquisitions apparel products, price (77.5%) and content (77.1%) occupy the first places.
Last but not least, when being asked about those actors who should be responsible for assuring sustainable products, individuals positioned themselves on the second place (56.6%), immediately after producers (63.6%). As a result, it seems that the general perception is that both companies, as well as consumers should put efforts in ethical retailing.