While consumers are increasingly interested in buying products that are better for the environment and for people than the alternative, three factors involving communications often prevent them from doing so: not enough information; gaps in trust; and confusion. These are some top insights derived from The Conference Board’s recently published global survey of 32,000 consumers in 64 countries.

Companies that want to better promote the sustainability attributes of their brands should look at these findings with optimism. After all, they reinforce why marketing — done right — can be so effective. Here are five ways to address the communications gap revealed by the research:

1. Consider l

Sustainability does not mean the same thing to everyone. Consumers around the world associate sustainability with different focus areas, according to our research.

In North America, they mostly associate it with recycling; in Europe and the Middle East and Africa, shoppers typically link sustainability to fair price; Latin Americans first think about alternative sources of energy; and for those in Asia-Pacific, the environment first comes to mind.

Conference Board graphic 1

These diverse perceptions raise a vital question for sustainability marketers: Should they continue using “sustainability” labels universally or should they localize their brand messaging to better focus on local markets’ perceptions of sustainability?

What works best inevitably will vary by brand. For example, a catch-all term such as “conscious,” a label that fashion brand H&M uses for its sustainable clothing, accommodates a range of environmental and social initiatives, but it doesn’t convey specificity. Labels such as “green” or “eco” are general yet suggest an environmental focus.

2. Seek certification

While extra cost continues to be a high barrier for consumers, for brands with better environmental practices our research found that shoppers often refrain from buying such brands due to a lack of information and trust. Consumers either find it too time-consuming to research which brands are truly better, they don’t trust companies’ environmental claims or find them confusing.

A solution could be to seek third-party certifications, which consumers may see as trustworthy intermediaries for vetting sustainability claims. There are many types of labels, such as Energy Star and Fairtrade. There’s also the comprehensive Certified B Corporation label, which requires passing rigorous performance standards on both social and environmental dimensions.

3. Aim for transparency

Shoppers are increasingly interested in supply chain transparency, including materials used, production processes and working conditions. But they often lack sufficient information about these things. According to our survey, that’s the leading reason for consumers to not buy brands with fair labor practices. They simply don’t know which brands are really being “fair.”

Read the rest of Denise Dahlhoff‘s article here at GreenBiz