Green paradox: Meeting consumer expectations remain ‘key challenge’ in sustainability efforts

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

A.S. Watson is pushing forward with multiple sustainability initiatives. ©GettyImages
A.S. Watson is pushing forward with multiple sustainability initiatives. ©GettyImages

Related tags: as watson, Sustainability

Beauty retailer and pharmacy chain A.S. Watson is pushing forward with multiple sustainability initiatives but says meeting consumer consumers expectations in terms of product design and cost remains a challenge.

The Hong Kong-based company recently joined the New Plastics Economy (NPE) Global Commitment, the first health and beauty retailer to do so.

The firm has pledged to use a minimum of 20% recycled plastic content in plastic packaging by 2025, if the supply of recycled plastic permits and completely eliminate its PVS use by 2030.

Additionally, it has taken a Group membership with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to help address the environmental impact of unsustainable palm oil.

The firm said it was currently working with RSPO to work out its goals, but noted that A.S. Watson-owned retailers Kruidvat and Superdrug were already using RSPO certified palm oil in a selection of their store brand products.

Additionally, the Group is currently reviewing its whole brand portfolio to identify other brands that can be added to its commitment by the end of 2021.

“We are delighted to take the lead in our industry to become the first health and beauty retailer to join the New Plastic Economy Global Commitment. We hope that more retail groups can also make these meaningful pledges so that together we can make our planet more sustainable,” ​said Malina Ngai, Group COO of A.S. Watson Group and CEO of A.S. Watson, Asia & Europe.

Consumer challenge

The group’s decision to cement its commitment towards environmental sustainability was driven by its consumers’ concern for the environment.

“Our customers are increasingly aware of and concerned about the sustainability issues and they want the brands they trust to do the right thing for the planet. As a retailer who has a customer-first strategy and the world’s largest international health & beauty retailer, we know we should act like more than just a business,” ​said Ngai.

At the same time, Ngai noted that consumer behaviour remained ‘a key challenge’ in the company’s road towards sustainability.

“While more and more consumers increasingly say they want brands and products that are more sustainable, the paradox is that few consumers follow through their intention with their wallets,”​ said Ngai.

She elaborated that consumers hesitated when it came to purchasing ‘green products’, because they are either more expensive or lacking in terms of design.

As such, the company has to challenge itself to produce products that are well-designed at a reasonable cost to the consumer.

“We continue to look for ways to design better while keeping costs low and may need to come up with incentives to encourage customers to switch to ‘greener’ choices. We believe the changes we are taking with our customers will make a huge impact to our planet now and in the future,” ​Ngai said.

For instance, the firm’s beverage business, Watsons Water, launched a plastic recycling vending machine that would reward the consumer with monetary incentives.

As of today, it has collected and recycled 450,000 bottles and Watsons Water estimates that the machines will be able to provide enough rPET raw materials to cover the full production capacity of Watsons Water by 2030.

Ngai added that companies needed to engage with consumers through social media influencers as she believes social influence is one of the most effective ways to shape consumers’ consumption behaviours.

“With our long-lasting commitment towards sustainability, we will continue to look for new ways to give more sustainable choices to our customers while engaging them to act together for a sustainable world with us.”

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