The Impact of Sustainability Terminologies of Swedish Manufacturing Companies on Consumer Perception : A Mono-Method Quantitative Study

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Abstract: Sustainability has fast evolved in business practices, and yet its meaning is often elusive and ambiguous. The component of sustainability is playing an important role in the company’s brand positioning. The popularity and the importance of sustainability in business operations and business representation are still rapidly growing. The linkage of the branding and sustainability messaging has a strong correlation with the consumer’s perception. Moreover, the brand messaging construction with the right terminologies’ selection is one of the brand communication activities. However, the aspect of “sustainability manufacturing” caught great attention in recent years. Therefore, our study project is based on comprehending the authentic brand positioning with the right sustainability terminology usage aiming to deliver strong sustainability messaging. More precisely, the project's primary aim has been to investigate and explore the impact of sustainability terminology used by manufacturing companies in Sweden on consumer perception. For this aim, we conducted a mono-method quantitative study with a specially developed questionnaire based on gathered secondary data from the 21 annual reports of the manufacturing companies in Sweden from the year 2020. We have selected ten terminologies from the reports and conducted the questionnaire with 100 participants. Based on these results, regular consumers were surveyed to get a quantitative number of the importance, ambiguity, and credibility of the sustainability terminologies. The literature review attempted to link the fields of the study from a top-down design with manufacturing companies at the top, creating these sustainable goods. Manufacturing companies were using terms like ‘waste management ‘materials efficiency ‘employee health and safety’ and ‘community relations’ as a branding mechanism to display their commitment toward a long-term sustainability goal. These concepts are further discussed with universal definitions of corporate social responsibility while the final concept is based on theoretical knowledge of the consumers themselves and their perceptions as they are the end consumer of these ‘eco-friendly’ products. The sustainability literature foundation was smoothly interconnected with the branding and the consumer’s perception theories. To conclude, the results of our study with regards to the consumer importance, customer's privacy does have a significant influence on the sustainability aspect of businesses. In the case of the aspect of ambiguity, the sorted terminologies are as follows: product and service safety and waste management. In the case of the credibility aspect, water management, energy management, employee health and safety, and ecological impacts are bringing the most credibility from the consumers' perception. This study contributes to business sustainability while attempting to link manufacturing companies with the end consumers. It allows both parties to share a similar perception between terminologies. Overall, the research study helps to comprehend the right utilization of sustainability terminologies based on the consumers’ perception in order to increase the sustainability branding credibility and trustworthiness in the business operations.

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