In 2015, Nielsen polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries around the world. They wanted to know more about what influences how people feel about brands, and how those feelings impact buying behavior.
One overwhelming conclusion of the report? That across the board, consumers are willing to pay extra for one thing: sustainability.
This is especially true for Millennials. While 66 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, a full 73 percent of Millennials are (Nielsen defines Millennials as those born from 1977 to 1995).
"Despite the fact that Millennials are coming of age in one of the most difficult economic climates in the past 100 years, they continue to be most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings--almost three-out-of-four respondents," says Nielsen.
I'm one of those three in four.
I can attest to the fact that sustainability isn't just something I "sorta kinda" consider--it's one of the primary reasons I either buy or don't buy from consumer brands.
When browsing beauty products, my first question is, "Is it cruelty-free?" not how pretty the blush is. When looking at food items like coffee, I want to know first that it's Fair Trade. I don't want to support companies that don't care about how the animals and/or workers are treated, and I do want to support those that do.
In other words, I'm willing to spend more (a lot more, in fact) to know that what I'm spending my money on is actually good for the earth and the people on it.
This is a relatively new perspective for consumers. For most of the history of the modern economy, the sourcing of products didn't even cross the minds of those shopping. But in a increasingly interconnected world, it's starting to be normal to think critically about where things come from and whether the company you're supporting is a responsible corporate citizen.
Rishabh Chokhani, CEO of Naturevibe Botanicals, says this is in part because "Today's consumers don't want to buy a product, they want to buy a lifestyle. People want to feel that whatever they are buying aligns with their personal values. That's why we're seeing a shift towards sustainable farming, farm-to-table, and organic botanical ingredients."
Personal values indeed. I recently spent $38 on a t-shirt from a brand I would trust with my life: Janne Robinson. She's a strong young feminist poet, an inspiration, and I trust her product because she was open about how she sourced the materials for it. She's vocal about the fact that it costs a lot more than shirts from a company like H&M specifically because she only uses sustainable goods and ethical practices when it comes to the workers.
I don't dream of a world full of cheap lip gloss that was tested on animals; I dream of one in which that kind of beauty product is illegal everywhere, period.
I don't dream of a world with 99 cent hamburgers available at any roadside fast food place. I dream of a world in which all factory farms are destroyed. Yes, meat will cost more and won't as widely available, but farm animals should all have real lives and humane deaths (and stop emitting so much methane into the atmosphere).
I don't dream of a world in which I can get a shirt for $3.99 just for the sake of that. I dream of a world in which clothing is more expensive across the board, but there are no more sweatshops anywhere, and no more slash-and-burn.
This isn't a pipe dream. In 2013, India banned all animal testing, then banned even the import of beauty products that engage in animal testing. In 1998, the Council of the European Union passed a directive that set rules for the protection of farmed animals -- a directive updated in 2009 that led to far more ethical treatment of animals there.
It can be done. Minds can be changed, laws can be changed, and companies can be changed. It's not just a morally good idea, either; it's lucrative. In 2015, brands who showed a commitment to sustainability saw sales grow more than 4% globally. Those that had no such commitment grew less than 1%.
I'm willing to pay significantly more to support quality products and human rights, and put my money where my mouth is when it comes to creating the world in which I want to live.
And according to Nielsen, I'm not alone in that.