• Sustainability is and will remain key.
• The importance of sustainability for the corporate image remains high.
• The top seven industries of 2012 have now become the top fourteen.
These are the three key findings of this year's sustainability study of the Serviceplan Group under the name "Sustainability Image Score" (SIS), which is carried out by Facit Research. The study is celebrating its fifth anniversary and again reflects the sustainability image of companies and brands from the customer's perspective. At the top of the SIS rankings in 2015 are Hipp, Miele, Milupa, Toyota, Alete, Frosta, Audi, Bosch, Coppenrath & Wiese and Bärenmarke. New in 2015 is the study of the consumer electronics industry.
Munich, 12 June 2015 — For the fifth time, the Serviceplan Group has presented its "Sustainability Image Score" (SIS): The study, conducted by Facit Research, has shown, since 2011, the influence of sustainability and corporate responsibility on companies' images, the willingness to buy and customer loyalty, and, above all, how companies' sustainable activities and communications are perceived and evaluated by consumers. The participants selected for the study were, therefore, not sustainability experts or opinion leaders, but purely consumers and brand users: This time more than 8,000 representatively selected people were asked about 104 companies from 16 industries.
Five years SIS clearly show that sustainability is not only a big issue in society, but continues to play an important and consistent role in a company's image. In addition to the dimensions of quality of service, value, attractiveness, economic success and management, sustainability is a relevant driving force with 15 percent. The overall finding of this year's study, as well as in 2014, show that sustainability is the new premium quality. It makes companies fit for the future and brings trademarks back to their actual function - orientation. Sustainability management is rewarded by higher loyalty, because customer loyalty is created through emotional attachment, and this in turn is heavily influenced by sustainability issues.
In addition, the five companies that top the ranking have very different communication to that of the rear ranking places. Joachim Schoepfer, Managing Partner at Serviceplan Corporate Reputation, explains: "It is important here, from the perspective of consumers, that the communication is understandable, credible, consistent, comprehensible and that information is also easy to find."
Not only has the number of top industries increased since the beginning of the study, but the number of flop sectors has fallen sharply. In 2012 the top industries consisted of baby food, dairy products, automotive, housewares, convenience/frozen food, tourism and sweets. Today they also include personal hygiene items, insurance, energy services, consumer electronics, clothing, financial services and food. "Overall in 2015, twice as many industries have achieved a SIS-value of more than 60 points and are thus no longer in the critical area. The number of flop industries has fallen from nine to two – telecommunications and fast food. This is a positive development because our research shows that many companies have understood the relevance of the topic and have begun to successfully communicate their sustainability activities", says Christian Bopp, Managing Partner of Facit Research, about the development of industries.
Although E.ON is only ranked 72 in the current study, at the same time the energy supplier has improved by 6.5 points from 55.4 to 61.9 over the previous year. Thus E.ON achieved the largest increase of all companies surveyed. E.ON has, with its continual credible marketing and communication strategy, been able to reach consumers on the issue of sustainability. The utilities company has, with the announced split of its divisions, also made a radical choice for a sustainable future. Consumers increasingly appreciate a clear entrepreneurial attitude - in the case of E.ON this now needs to be implemented, proven long-term and communicated accordingly.
For the first time in 2015, companies were examined in the field of consumer electronics. Overall, the sector rises to number 11 and ranks with a SIS-value of 61.9 points among the top industries. The following companies were investigated: Apple, Huawei, Nikon, Panasonic, Sony and Samsung. Although Apple is the most valuable company of all time, awakening the highest desires and long queues in front of shops, when it comes to sustainability, its Apple's own customers who are uncompromising. Besides the obvious criticisms about poor conditions for workers and suppliers, the topics "product quality" and "durability" come to the fore. Here customers have their own expectations, but Apple itself is not fulfilling its announced improvements.
The fashion industry is a special problem child. In the second year after the Rana Plaza collapse and the promises of the fashion industry to improve production conditions and to take on more responsibility, customers continue to evaluate companies in the industry as rather poor. That is no surprise since the requirements for reasonable sustainability communication from the customer's perspective are partially not met. Transparency and credibility are still neglected.
Joachim Schöpfer, Managing Partner at Serviceplan Corporate Reputation, summarizes the results of the 2015 SIS study as follows: "Also in the fifth year of the survey, companies with a professional and timely communication of their sustainability activities move up in the SIS ranking or remain successful. Overall, it can be said that the communication of sustainability has become more visible across many industries. The stars from the very beginning, which other companies can learn from, are Hipp, Frosta and Miele."
He commented further, "More and more companies are improving in the eyes of their own customers, so sustainability creates success. Above all, it is worthwhile for companies to take a position on corporate responsibility and communicate concrete sustainability activities continually and credibly to customers as well as other stakeholders. We call it Green Marketing or Corporate Responsibility Communication.”
The SIS Index sustainability comprises three dimensions of environmental sustainability (responsible use of resources, environmentally friendly technologies, environmentally friendly products, etc.), economic sustainability (assessment of whether a company conducts its business in a fair and reputable way or is prone to questionable business practices) and social sustainability (a company provides good working conditions, job security and is social responsible).
The SIS-study has been carried out by Facit Research since 2011 on behalf of the Serviceplan Group in cooperation with the Wirtschaftswoche, a German trade publication. The survey of more than 8,000 consumers takes place here each spring. More than 100 companies from more than 15 industries are included. Since 2013, the SIS has become a component of the jury's assessment for the German Sustainability Award. The results of the study make it possible to accurately determine what sustainability image individual companies or entire sectors have from the consumer's perspective and how sustainability affects brand value.
Chief Corporate Communications Officer
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