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ndian consumers are looking at brands committed to social and environmental issues, but will prefer to save more money over making sustainable choices, said a study conducted by analytics and brand consulting firm Kantar.

For its Asia Sustainability Foundational Study, Kantar interviewed 10,000 consumers from across nine countries, including 1,000 from India. It spoke to consumers in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad.

The report said Indian consumers prefer to back companies that are committed to doing good, with 48% of consumers actively pursuing sustainability issues. However, 77% said though they were prepared to back firms that are trying to do good, their intent did not translate into action as an overwhelming majority said they would rather save money in real-world actions.

The ‘value-action gap’ is still significant for Indian consumers with good intentions, the report said. For example, 65% of participants said they threw recyclable waste in the trash.

Kantar measured three factors undermining sustainable consumer behaviour, including cost: wherein 84% of study participants said they prioritized saving money over saving the planet at the time of a purchase; comfort: wherein 76% said they do not have enough information to choose sustainable options; and convenience: with 72% saying they tend to forget about sustainability in their busy day-to-day lives.

“Consumers are looking for brands that have social and environmental purpose, so from a marketing standpoint, purpose is imperative, and sustainability will potentially drive consumer choice. While brands are taking steps in the right direction in India, but it’s not yet mainstream. In developed markets, sustainable practices by brands are lot stronger," said Paru Minocha, head of sustainable transformation practice, India, Kantar.

Minocha said brands such as MAC Cosmetics, which runs a scheme wherein if a customer returns six product empties, they get a free lipstick. Likewise, Hindustan Unilever is running a pilot, ‘Smart Fill’, at Reliance Smart Acme Mall in Mumbai, where consumers get a refill of Surf Excel and Comfort using empty bottles or purchasing a Smart Fill bottle. Users are offered a 30 discount on the MRP if they use their own bottle and 15 off for those who purchase the Smart Fill bottle.

“These are ways that brands should make it meaningful for consumers to change their behaviour and meet them midway. All the changes have to become more mainstream," added Minocha.

Despite the challenges as a developing nation, Indians are concerned beyond their basic rights, as sustainability issues are interlinked with daily lives, it said. The top concerns for consumers include water pollution (pesticides, oil spills), poverty and hunger, deforestation (beef farming, palm oil and soya), lack of access to quality healthcare and vaccination, and air pollution.

There is also high trust deficit among consumers about the sustainability practices by companies, with 68% saying that brands back social causes just for commercial benefits.

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