Earlier this year, my colleague and I participated as panelists for the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s Well Comms Ignite event where we discussed the importance of science and sustainability in consumer marketing for supplements and nutritional products—and how this need has evolved since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the global health crisis caused by the pandemic, we have seen a shift in consumer sentiment, especially when it comes to consumable goods. For many, the pandemic put a microscope on health, wellness, science and on environmental integrity. Prior to the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine, many felt out of control when it came to their personal health, which led to an uptick in the adoption of supplements and super foods to help support health and immunity. We saw a greater emphasis on the importance of safety, which led to a greater connection to transparency and quality. An increase in conscious consumers among every age demographic has resulted in greater awareness of the integrity of a product life cycle, from how ingredients are sourced, where they come from and what the overall environmental impact of each product is.
The Importance of Science
Science is a hot topic for many companies, regardless of whether they are a scientific-focused company or not. Scientific credibility that properly supports products´ claims are becoming more important to healthcare professionals (HCPs) and to consumers alike.
Equally important is how companies deliver these data points. Our brains are wired to understand the world around us through stories, and companies must engage their key audiences in a meaningful and relatable way. And like all good stories told throughout history, science-backed stories begin with a truthful narrative.
What can you do to start building your scientific story? After your team has aligned its goals and objectives for scientific investigation, a health and wellness company may start with a clinical trial, and if so, you need to understand what data endpoints will be interesting and will add value to your audiences. Don’t just use science for the sake of using science. Use it to create a product that HCPs can feel comfortable recommending to their patients, and patients feel good using. In addition to science, responsible practices can help support these objectives as well.
Corporate Responsibility is Here to Stay
As noted above, consumers are more aware than ever of the value and importance of responsible corporate practices. In fact, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, there has been a 71% increase in online searches for sustainable goods in the last half decade. Furthermore, a 2022 survey from McKinsey & Co. found 66% of all respondents and 75% of Millennial respondents say they consider sustainability when making a purchase. As we further feel and see the impacts of climate change and as Millennials and Gen Zers purchasing powers increase, these trends are only likely to increase.
All brands need to identify meaningful and authentic ways to bring sustainability into their operations and communicate it to all stakeholders. It cannot be stressed enough that whatever is committed to must be executed and progress should be shared along the way or else a brand could be at risk of greenwashing.
Data is at the heart of creating a well-structured sustainability program.
So, how can your company start the sustainability journey?
- Don’t wait. Begin your journey now.
- Begin with a materiality assessment of your brand and establish strategies with goals that can be set and tracked via an environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting structure.
- Pull data points into an ESG report, which will help tell the story of how your company is tracking its goals.
- There is a regulatory component to ESG, so a company is held accountable to do the work to meet its goals, which third parties validate. It is worth noting that there is anticipation in the U.S. that the SEC will issue regulatory guidelines around ESG, similar to the EU’s recent reporting rule requirements.
Once a company has its strategies, goals and reporting structure in place, it will be important to communicate progress toward their ESG goals to all stakeholders. It is imperative companies are transparent and authentic when communicating their progress. This can feel overwhelming, but there are partners to help accomplish your goals and identify the correct communications channels, whether that is through earned media, owned social channels, brand journalism, paid marketing or direct packaging communications. Finally, even if your company isn’t on track to meet its goals, be transparent, communicate the setbacks, why they’ve occurred and what is being done to reach the company’s goals.
If you’d like to learn more about how to begin your scientific and sustainability journey, Spectrum is here to help. Consumers and healthcare professionals are going beyond the label to ensure brands are supporting their claims with science, sourcing sustainably responsible ingredients and positively impacting the communities they serve and operate in.
Kay Brungs Laud is SVP of Social Impact, and Adela García Chévez is VP of Brand Strategy at Spectrum.