Another reason to act on plastic

Businesses that lead the way in eradicating plastics will increase customer loyalty and trust, according to research from the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) in collaboration with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

A poll of over 600 consumers found that a plastic reduction program tops the list of CSR strategies that resonate most strongly with consumers. It creates more positive outcomes than a store wide discount, and enhances the perceived warmth and competence of the retailer.

“Consumers have spoken – they want to see action on plastics given their unacceptable impact on the natural environment, and they’re going to be drawn to the brands that are showing leadership on this front compared to those who are dragging the chain,” says ARA CEO Paul Zahra.

The research coincides with continued bans on single use plastics from 1 July, with Western Australia to enforce its ban on a number of items including single use cutlery, stirrers and straws. In the ACT, plastic straws and cotton buds with plastic sticks will also be outlawed from the start of next month.

This month, NSW became the final jurisdiction to ban lightweight plastic bags 13 years after it was first done by South Australia.

“Addressing environmental challenges is a top priority for the industry and pleasingly, we’ve seen many retailers go above and beyond government mandates in eradicating plastic items ahead of time,” Mr Zahra says.

“However, we remain concerned for small businesses who’ve been in survival mode these past two years. We need to focus on educating those businesses that might be straggling and provide flexibility as they make the necessary arrangements to use more sustainable products.”

Chair of the ARA’s Consumer Research Advisory Committee and QUT Professor Gary Mortimer, says “before implementing a new sustainability program, it is vital to understand the potential impact and consumer response to such programs”.

“This new research identified the five most important corporate social responsibility (CSR) tactics, with plastics ‘reduction’ considered more important than simply ‘recycling’,” Professor Mortimer said.

The five most important CSR tactics (in the Australian market) are:

  • Plastic reduction
  • Healthy food choices for children
  • Plastic recycling
  • Fair trade (forced labour)
  • Racial equality.

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