New research shows consumers drawn to brands that act on plastics

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).

Plastic reduction programs top the list of corporate social responsibility strategies that resonate most strongly with consumers. The poll of over 600 consumers found that a plastic reduction program creates more positive outcomes than a store wide discount, and that it enhances the perceived warmth and competence of the retailer.

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.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said retailers showing leadership in eradicating plastics are rewarded by their customers.

“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,” Mr Zahra said.

“The states and territories are managing their own bans on single use plastics, with more items to be outlawed in WA and the ACT at the start of July. 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. 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.

“Sustainability and climate action are a critical focus for the retail industry, and the ARA is committed to supporting sector through initiatives like our Net-zero Roadmap in the transition to the low carbon, circular economy of the future.”

Chair of the ARA’s Consumer Research Advisory Committee and QUT Professor Gary Mortimer, also said: “Retail leaders are genuinely seeking deeper insights into not only what consumers want but also how they respond to environmental and sustainability practices.”

“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 (Australian market)

Rank CSR tactic description
1 Environmental: Plastic reduction
2 Philanthropic: Healthy food choices for children
3 Environmental: Plastic recycling
4 Legal: Fair trade (forced labour)
5 Ethical: Racial equality


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