Matthew Keegan
Oct 13, 2023

GfK study reveals only 46% of CMOs in APAC say sustainability is important for their brand

The study also illuminates a huge gap between marketers' and consumers' expectations when it comes to environmental business priorities.

Photo: Getty Images.
Photo: Getty Images.
A new study by German market research company GfK entitled the CMO Outlook Survey, has found that just under half of CMOs in Asia-Pacific (46%) view sustainability and environmental protection as important parts of their brand compared to a global average of (42%).
The study is based on 633 interviews with a global sample of senior marketing leaders. While CMOs in APAC were among the most invested in sustainability globally, the broader picture is less encouraging. 
Only one-in-three (30%) global CMOs believe their customers expect their brand to address sustainability issues. Yet, wider GfK studies show that almost three-quarters (73%) of global consumers say it’s important that companies take environmentally responsible actions. A shocking perception gap.
“This finding represents a wider mental debate among marketing leaders,” says Garcia Villaneuva, CMO at NielsenIQ/GfK. “There are many consumer markets that put their money where their mouth is. They say they care about sustainability, and they buy sustainably, but there are a lot of big markets where this is less true. Marketing leaders know they have a finite budget and I suspect too many question themselves about putting the majority of it into sustainability-focussed activity.” 
According to GfK's 'Who Cares? Who Does?' 2022 report, a substantial percentage of the global population are willing to pay more for sustainable products. This can mean paying upwards of 25% more.
“Engaging with sustainability also presents a massive opportunity for CMOs to actually capture and show off the real purpose of their company,” concludes Garcia Villaneuva.
Gonzalo Garcia Villanueva, CMO at NielsenIQ/GfK
Meanwhile a senior marketing decision-maker at Vodafone told GfK that consumers want brands to be actively involved and to care for society. “They expect brands to behave sustainably, even if there is a cost—because it’s inappropriate not to. However, they need to continue to be authentic and ensure what they do has impact and meaning.” 
The GfK findings come at a time when regulators in the Asia-Pacific region are paying closer attention to businesses that might be exaggerating their environmental credentials.
Back in March, Australia's consumer watchdog announced that it is investigating at least 140 companies for possible greenwashing after an internet sweep revealed that 57% of companies had made "concerning claims" about their environmental and sustainability practises.
This occurred less than a month after the South Korean government warned some of the major energy and steel businesses in the country about making false statements about climate change and after Japan tightened the regulations on which funds can label themselves "ESG."
Asia-Pacific isn’t on track to achieve any of its sustainability targets by 2030
The overall picture for Asia-Pacific and its sustainability goals is bleak. In a statement released by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) earlier this year, at the midpoint towards the 2030 target year, the Asia-Pacific region has reached only 14.4% progress needed to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Based on current trends, the region will take another 42 years to reach the goalpost.
“Time is running out. Right now, at the current pace, without raising ambitions, without acceleration, this region is not set to achieve any of the sustainable development goals by 2030,” Kaveh Zahedi, deputy executive secretary of the United Nations ESCAP, said in an interview with CNBC.
According to Zahedi, the region has experienced a "rollback" in some sectors and is "going backwards" in terms of tackling climate change and promoting sustainable production and consumption.
Zahedi added that the regression is especially worrying given that the Asia-Pacific region is particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Campaign Asia

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