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Does sustainability sell? Market responses to sustainability certification

Susan M. Harris (Maunsell Australia Pty Ltd, Leederville, Australia)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 9 January 2007




The purpose of this paper is to describe the results of two projects aimed at testing market responses to the first‐ever fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) independently certified as sustainable.


The method used comprised three phases: independent sustainability certification of products using a full life cycle assessment; nationwide roll‐out of seven certified household products in retail outlets throughout New Zealand, and trials of certified lamb meat in three butcher shops in Brisbane, Australia; and monitoring of sales data and consumer responses to certified products.


Record sales averaging +52 per cent above historical were achieved and sustained for the seven household products over a period of 18 months. Certified lamb meat product was well received, with 95 per cent of customers surveyed indicating that they would consider buying certified meat in future.

Practical implications

The paper indicates that there is consumer demand for products that are clearly identified as genuinely sustainable, even though they may be perceived to be more expensive than traditional products. The market for certified sustainable products may become more mainstream as consumer concern regarding sustainability increases, and product disclosure standards become more stringent.


The paper describes the results of the first‐ever market tests of independently certified sustainable products in the FMCG sector. It gives an early indication that some consumers will select independently certified sustainable products in preference to others, provided that the product is clearly labeled and well marketed. The results also indicate that sales of certified sustainable products can be sustained over time.



Harris, S.M. (2007), "Does sustainability sell? Market responses to sustainability certification", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 50-60.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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