Survey: US consumers want more when it comes to transparency

A new report by consultancy The Hartman Group reveals US consumers want more information about a company’s economic, social and environmental practices — and the more the better.

Survey: US consumers want more when it comes to transparency

A new report by consultancy The Hartman Group reveals US consumers want more information about a company’s economic, social and environmental practices — and the more the better. While information about practices directly connected to the product or service is most essential, the company says, consumers are also interested in broader corporate practices.

According to the report, Sustainability 2017: Connecting Benefits With Values Through Purposeful Consumption, nearly 70% of the 1,500 U.S. adult consumers surveyed expressed a desire for more transparency from companies about their sustainability practices.

When it comes to communicating transparency, it is not about the quantity of the information, it’s about the quality of the information, Hartman notes: it is also the content of the information and the manner in which it is given. Consumers evaluate a company’s transparency in terms of access to its values, policies and practices, and the openness of communication between a company and its customers.

“Consumers associate transparency with how authentically committed a company is to ethical action,” said Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group. “Most consumers, 73% of those surveyed in our new report, understand what transparency means when it comes to business practices.”

What companies do consumers consider most transparent? The top ten companies consumers named (unaided) are Whole Foods Market, Walmart, Amazon, Apple, Google, Target, Microsoft, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A and Coca-Cola.

“Transparency is more than enabling a moral evaluation of trustworthiness for brands; it is a way for companies to reveal details about production and sourcing that enable consumers to find higher-quality distinctions otherwise concealed in conventionally marketed branded commodities,” said Demeritt.

While it's rarely a primary driver of purchase, Hartman notes, transparency attributes on a product can potentially settle a competitive draw in otherwise identical products where what is being communicated makes sense. The strongest transparency attribute today made on packaging in terms of relevance to consumers is, it says, “how it was made."