The Sustainable Future of Digital: Trust

Published on March 10, 2023 by Alex Eade

What do our clients think? How do they respond to sustainability-related trust signals?

This is part three of a three part series taken from February’s ‘Footprint Digital Presents…The Sustainable Future of Digital’. In this part, our host Carl and panelists Graham, Sophie, David, Bailey, & Parry discuss actions that people can take for digital sustainability.

About the Panelists:

Parry – Deputy CEO of What’s Possible Group
Bailey – Business Development Manager at Footprint Digital
David – Co-founder of Net Zero International
Sophie – Senior Associate at law firm RPC
Graham – Senior Partner Manager at Trustpilot

Graham: You tend to find that consumer behaviour is  changing. The traditional drivers of consumers when it comes to online shopping have always been price and product quality and that’s pretty much it. But what we’re tending to find now is there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s being driven on the most part by younger people. A really good example of how the younger generation are thinking, last week in the news there was a 16 year old called Innes Fitzgerald and she’s a cross country runner who got selected to run for Great Britain in the under 20s championship in Australia. It was the first time she’d ever been selected for her country and she said no, she didn’t want to go. She couldn’t justify going all the way to Australia to do one race and then come all the way back.  

That sort of thinking is becoming really prevalent and it flows through so much and we see it in commerce as well. Thinking ‘is it the cheapest’ or ‘is it the best’ is not enough anymore. I don’t know if any of you are business owners or marketers or whether you actually see this when it comes to your strategy or when it comes to buying trends? Some of the studies that we’ve done at Trustpilot are around the business’s purpose – and that can be anything from sustainability to their stance on humanitarianism, or social politics. Sustainability, specifically, is becoming an element of social proof -it’s a buying signal, it’s a sign of trust that somebody can see on a website and make them like the brand even more. The thoughts of product quality are still very much there but the thoughts of price, for some, are going out of the window because there are bigger elements at play that are more heavily influencing people these days. The aspects of sustainability and humanitarianism combined are creating loyalty which is so powerful for younger people. The actual loyalty within a consumer these days will drive and increase lifetime value. So, for businesses to be adopting this strategy and using sustainability throughout their marketing is really valuable. It’s important to adopt a sustainability strategy, but I’d also encourage everybody to talk about it and have it running through your website, through your marketing, through all of your channels of communication. You may not have got to that final end point yet but it’s really important to show people what you’re doing to be more sustainable and not just from a sense of ‘hey we want you to buy our goods and we want this to be an element of social proof and we want to look great’ but because your competitors in the industry will look at you and think ‘they’re doing well, what are they doing differently to us?’ and it becomes a way to spread sustainability and make it an industry wide norm, and make it so that sustainability, environmentalism, humanitarianism are things that brands can engage with.

Parry: I totally agree with what Graham’s saying there, but there’s just one part where my research differs slightly and that’s the perception that there’s an age divide. We’ve looked at a lot of data on this for a sustainability conscious client of ours which has found that in younger age groups there’s a much bigger difference between what people say and what people actually do. So younger people can be a lot louder about being sustainable yet when it comes to spending money they might not necessarily be spending where their beliefs are. More action seems to be coming from older audiences and the theory on that is down to affordability. Most of the money in this country is held by middle and upper class over 50 year olds, so what they say they do they’re actually doing, and so the rhetoric of ‘the younger generation are the best’ needs to be treated carefully when building marketing campaigns. However, what will be interesting is when that younger audience, some of whom currently can’t afford to make those sustainable purchasing decisions, when they can afford to, I think the rate of change is going to absolutely snowball. 

How are you seeing people write reviews from a trust perspective around sustainability?

Graham: It’s just more a topic of conversation, when it comes to reviews and people talking about why something was good, they’re moving away from just product and price, or speed of delivery. They actually talk about sustainability which gives business owners and those interacting with consumers on third party review sites like Trustpilot the opportunity to then reply and say what they’re working on and how they’re making things more sustainable, and become part of that conversation with their consumers. It stimulates a dialogue and creates two way communication about sustainability. By responding to reviews and engaging with your audience, you’re feeding into the whole loyalty aspect and re-emphasising your brand purpose and what you’re doing. 

Bailey: It’s also giving a business case now to actually give  a sh*t! Now that there’s proof that your customers care about your values and about more than just the product and where businesses are using their profits. Parry spoke about the journey to become a B-Corp, there are things like 1% for the Planet, there’s even things like working with sustainable web developers, there are so many ways to be having that conversation with consumers that goes beyond simply ‘hey I want to sell you my product’.