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The meaning of sustainability for Indian consumers

November 08, 2021

Sam Richardson

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An increasing number of brands consider sustainability an integral part of their business and communications strategy. After all, sustainable life on earth is widely considered as the most critical issue of our time, for governments, society, and organisations. When it comes to the ‘green’ agenda, the implementation of environmentally friendly initiatives has the potential to change the way economies and trades operate. A change in societal behavior could encourage the adoption of more environmentally sound consumption.

With these issues in mind, we set out on a journey to understand how and if sustainability matters for the Indian urban consumer. The aim of the study was to help brands understand consumer perspective of sustainability and how they can communicate these efforts in a more engaging and efficient way. We interviewed 2,000 consumers across eight metros in India. We also met with industry experts across different sectors, to understand these topics from a business perspective.

Sustainable doesn’t necessarily mean green

The world is consuming resources at an unsustainable rate, and therefore our production of goods is increasing. This is a result of economic growth. But how important is it to consumers to adopt a lifestyle which is considered sustainable?

66% of adults said it is extremely important to them, however, the issues that Indian consumers perceive as most important to sustainability are different from classic ‘green’ issues. More than half (54%) said equal rights for all should be in place. While 53% believe that companies need to provide gender equality, and 50% believe that businesses should provide decent work and economic growth.

Parity, inclusiveness and themes about education, health and well-being top the charts. Micro themes relating to the environment appear as only runners-up. This is in contrast to comparative studies we have carried out in other markets, where matters such as environmentally friendly energy appear in the top five sustainability issues.

READ ALSO: Maximize ROI on Sustainability

Brand perception

Using our brand positioning model, Brand Touch, we looked at consumer perceptions of brands that are associated with sustainability. We found out which personality traits sustainable brands have in common, and which traits bind together those that are not considered sustainable.

People perceive sustainable brands as friendly and helpful. They are thought of as more inclusive and ‘we-oriented’. Organisations perceived as supportive, down-to-earth and empathic are building an eco-friendly image and tend to be more popular. By connecting with people on an emotional level and increasing the level of trust, brands can move in consumers’ minds from being ‘nice-to-have’, to ‘essential’.

On the other hand, brands that are not strongly associated with sustainability are perceived as expensive, impatient, and commercial. So, if these brands want to be taken seriously when they start talking about sustainability, they need to prove their benefits and values to consumers first.

Brand loyalty

While there are many characteristics that can lead to brand loyalty, sustainability is key. One in two consumers remained loyal throughout lockdown to businesses considered environmentally safe – especially in categories such as FMCG and IoT which successfully marketed their sustainability commitments. If brands communicate their sustainability efforts effectively shoppers might change their brand choice to favour sustainability.

India is a solid, conscious, ambitious market. If you’re a brand in India, it is essential to understand the context and what is the consumer understanding of a certain topic. Talking about sustainability including issues that go beyond “green”, can help brands been perceived as more holistically sustainable. By using the right tone of voice and approaching issues that resonate with consumers brands will maximize the impact of their communication.

Learn more

If you want to know more about the learnings of our report and how your company can benefit from these insights, please do not hesitate to contact our Nepa India team.

Esha Nagar, Managing Director, Nepa India

Blog Posts

MTV Insights Studio and Nepa collaboration – MTV Youth Study

October 13, 2021

Sam Richardson

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MTV Insights Studio launches MTV Youth Study 2021 ‘Atmanirbhar by Circumstance’

A go-to handbook on all things Gen Z for marketers and brand custodians

Quantitative Research powered by Nepa India Pvt Ltd

MUMBAI, India (October 13th, 2021) – As India’s No. 1 youth brand and a domain leader for more than two decades, MTV is recognized for its thought-provoking narrative and command over youth through its unique style of storytelling, engagement, conversations, and research. Showcasing its profound understanding of the youth, MTV Insights Studio in collaboration with Nepa India Pvt Ltd as its quantitative research partner launched the 2021 edition of its MTV Youth Study titled Atmanirbhar by Circumstance, to steer marketing and communications for youth in the right direction. A one of its kind study, Atmanirbhar by Circumstance is arguably India’s largest youth research and a go-to handbook for the advertising and marketing community that provides a comprehensive overview of India’s Gen Z population. The in-depth qualitative and quantitative study reflects Gen-Z’s behavior, mindsets, habits, and perceptions.

Amid a raging pandemic, Atmanirbhar by Circumstance examines Gen Z’s evolving thought processes and choices. With over 26,000 respondents aged 15 to 25 years from 50 Indian cities across NCCS A, B, and C, Atmanirbhar by Circumstance is the result of 185 questions covering seven broad topics: Education, Money, Romance, National Interests, Content, Family, Friends, and Spirituality, and COVID-19 Outlook.

The study report was launched by Anshul Ailawadi – Head, Youth Music and English Entertainment at Viacom18 alongside participation from leading brands such as, Godrej, Dabur, Dell Technologies and Spotify kicking off a discussion on Gen-Zfying the brands. The launch also had Gen Z representation from AIESEC, a non-governmental, and not-for-profit organization entirely run by youth for youth.

To get access to the complete report, please write to


Want to know more? Contact us today and our brand experts will help you! 

Blog Posts

Emerging Sustainability Avatars in India – Nepa BrandTouch Sustainability Study

September 30, 2021

Sam Richardson

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An increasing number of brands consider sustainability an integral part of their business strategy and communication. And with good reason: sustainable life on Earth is widely regarded as the fundamental issue of our time, for governments, individuals – and organizations.

One of our latest initiatives at Nepa is the BrandTouch Sustainability study!

Presenting India Chapter in the form of a Nepa Original – A curated insights series using interdisciplinary digital research approaches to help brands think differently.

For key findings download our PDF below, for industry or brand specific findings contact us at

Download PDF:

Emerging Sustainability Avatars in India – Nepa BrandTouch Sustainability Study