Understanding the Power of Sustainability on Product Sales

Esra and Rika are Commercial Emerging Leader associates, who both started with Nielsen in Markham, Canada. Currently, Esra is based in New York City for a rotation on the Watch Product Leadership team, and Rika is based in Emeryville, California, for a rotation on the Gracenote Marketing and Communications team. During their previous rotations, they volunteered to take on a project together to assist the Global Responsibility & Sustainability team in uncovering insights regarding sustainable claims and its effect on product sales.

Through the Commercial Emerging Leaders program, we are offered the unique opportunity to take on side projects that allow us to use our skills and expertise to make a viable impact across the company. For our project, we connected with Julia, Director of Global Responsibility and Sustainability at Nielsen, and worked on a report that reinforces the case that sustainability does help product sales grow.

Nielsen has made it our responsibility to not just move our own corporate responsibility and sustainability strategy forward, but to help our clients and entire industries to do the same. And clients, investors, the media and other stakeholder groups are increasingly turning to Nielsen to make the case that sustainability works for business.

Nielsen had previously conducted various studies proving that consumers care about environmental and social factors in their path to purchase. But there was no comprehensive method of quantifying the extent to which consumers are willing to base their purchasing decisions on sustainability factors. To support and inform our clients’ sustainability related decisions, it was imperative that we come up with a method to quantify sustainability claims, and the research project we took on helped accelerate that effort.

While exploring ideas into how we could isolate sustainability as a single factor, we reached out to various teams to learn more about their methods of capturing sustainability as a purchasing factor. We interviewed leaders on the Innovation, Brandbank and Reference Data teams to understand existing processes and barriers they encountered while executing similar projects in the U.K. During this period, we made connections across the company globally that we otherwise would not have had a chance to learn about.

In order to formulate a method that could be easily replicated for future studies, we narrowed down the scope to highlight the effect of select sustainable attributes in three categories: chocolate, coffee and bath products. The original goal of this project was to explore possible directions the Global Responsibility & Sustainability team could take to quantify sustainability claims related to sales in certain categories. However, we wanted to create and establish a tangible process that the team could replicate with other categories and periodically showcase to clients.

Initially, we created a presentation that Crystal, Nielsen’s SVP of Global Responsibility & Sustainability, shared at the Sustainable Brands conference in June 2018. Following the presentation, we received positive feedback that Crystal’s talk led to conversation starters among some of Nielsen’s largest fast-moving consumer goods and retail clients—sparking the idea of publishing these insights for a broader audience. Creating a report that would be available to the public was somewhat intimidating at first, but every single stakeholder that we had a chance to connect across Nielsen encouraged us to share and be proud of our accomplishments. With support from countless stakeholders during the entire project, we published a Nielsen Insights report, “What’s Sustainability Got to Do With It?”, earlier this month.

Looking back at how this project started as a blank canvas and what it has turned into today, we are not only incredibly proud of our efforts to contribute in the ever-growing sustainability space, but we’re also proud to be part of a company that pushes us beyond our day-to-day roles. In the last few months, we’ve truly experienced first hand the openness of Nielsen and how an idea can turn into something so much larger. Even though we were only six months into joining the company when we first embarked on this challenge, every person we connected with was supportive of our ideas. We are thankful to be part of a company that values the impact of employees regardless of level or experience, and we are so excited to see what the future will hold for us at Nielsen.