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Sustainable Retailing Means Sustainable Gift Cards, Too


Sustainability is a higher priority for consumers than retail leaders realize and sustainable gift and loyalty card programs are part of the solution

A woman holding a sustainable gift card

Earlier this year, Forbes explored a research study by First Insight and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Long story short, “retail execs didn’t get the memo” as Forbes so aptly put it. While consumers hold strong opinions about sustainability, senior retail executives appear to believe that consumers value very different things when it comes to sustainable products and shopping formats.

In this blog, we will explore the three most surprising disconnects between what consumers say they want and what retail industry leaders think they want. Those disconnects offer some valuable insights for retailers as they seek to align their business practices with the increasingly green shopping habits of the American consumer. Gift and loyalty card programs are among the retail strategies that have an opportunity to align with those shifting consumer sentiments.

The Top 3 Disconnects Between Retailers and Consumers

#1: Consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products

The push for sustainable consumption isn’t just a Gen Z thing, driven by those ages 12 to 26. According to the First Insight and Baker Retailing Center study, nearly 90% of Gen X consumers (ages 42 to 57 years old) now say they are willing to spend an extra 10% to purchase a more sustainable product alternative. That sentiment is now creeping into the Boomer generation as well. Across all age categories, roughly 66% of consumers say they will pay more for sustainably sourced products.

However, retail leaders hold a different perception of consumer preferences. When asked the same question but from their perspective, roughly 66% of retail executives believe that consumers will not pay more for environmentally sound products. The scope of this disconnect is startling and suggests that retailers are out of step with their customers on the topic of sustainability.

#2: Consumers value sustainability more than brand name

About 56% of consumers across all age groups said they value product sustainability more than product brand name. In other words, the First Insight study shows that a clear majority of consumers now prefer to make sustainable consumption decisions even if it means foregoing a cherished brand name.Furthermore, approximately 75% of consumers said that sustainability is now a somewhat or very important purchase criteria for them.

Here again, retailers hold a different perception of their target audience. Of the senior retail executives surveyed, nearly 100% said they believe that consumers rank product brand name higher than product sustainability. In addition, only 50% believe that sustainability is an important purchase consideration among consumers.

#3: Consumers are sincerely motivated by sustainability

When asked to rank why they purchase sustainable products and brands, consumers offered these insights:

  • 30% want to improve the environment
  • 23% want to reduce their carbon footprint
  • 17% are concerned about animal welfare
  • 7% are concerned about social signaling and being recognized as a good citizen

Retail executives were particularly cynical on this topic. They ranked “social signaling” nearly as high as“improving the environment” in their evaluation of consumer motivations. Thankfully, nearly 100% of retail leaders believe that consumers really do want them to operate in a more eco-conscious manner –even if they’re skeptical of the reasons why.

Image statistic on the importance of sustainability in retail

Sustainability Comes to Gift Cards

A gift and loyalty card program is just one facet of the retail shopping experience for consumers – but it is a highly visible one. It also carries a highly visible environmental stigma.

Historically, the vast majority of gift and loyalty cards have been manufactured from polyvinyl chloride or PVC, a type of plastic that is not readily recyclable. Countless tons of used PVC gift and loyalty cards end up in landfills annually where they pose long-term pollution risks. Indeed, Greenpeace considers PVC to be one of the most environmentally hazardous forms of plastic waste there is.

There’s a happy ending to the story, however. Thanks to modern card manufacturing technology, it is possible for retailers to offer gift and loyalty card programs while giving consumers the Earth-friendly attributes they seek. Among the world’s leading providers of gift and loyalty card programs, Taylor has invested heavily in sustainable solutions for card programs.

Paper gift card substrates

Taylor has produced more than 100 million paper-based gift cards for our clients to date and the number grows each day. We have partnered with paper manufacturers to source paper gift card substrates (made with varying degrees of post-consumer waste) that offer plastic-like durability but with the environmentally friendly attributes – and recyclability – of paper.

Sustainable card carriers

We’ve also analyzed card carrier designs with an eye for sustainability. Everything from the paper and adhesives used to the number of cards per pack is considered to bring a higher degree of sustainability to the other raw materials that go into a gift card program.

Sustainable embellishments

The environmental advantages of a sustainably sourced paper gift card substrate are lost if you apply anon-recyclable embellishment to it. We’ve studied the print production technologies available in the marketplace and now offer 15 different print enhancements that do not adversely impact the recyclability of a paper-based gift card.

Looking for ways to make your gift and loyalty card programs more sustainable? Contact a Taylor representative to learn how we’re leading the way in sustainable gift and loyalty card manufacturing.

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