Consumers remain hesitant to pay higher prices for sustainable products

Robert has a Bachelor´s of Business Administration and Master´s in Law. He started his career in the Netherlands and has built his expertise over 18 years in Unilever. He worked in challenging marketing-, and business-roles in several categories in various countries in Europe, in South Africa and in Brazil. In Brazil, Robert was responsible for the Home Care-category with Brazilian iconic brands such as OMO and SURF in his portfolio.

Robert joined Innate Motion as senior partner in 2013, driven by his passion for brands, his drive to link brands with a purpose beyond merely selling products , the focus of Innate Motion on  sustainability and his experience in translating positioning into action and in team-development.

He loves exploring new cultures, leaving the beaten track. As a student, he already felt strongly attracted by the Latin American positive spirit, culture, and beauty. As opportunities come his way to live there, his stay in Brazil made him decide to make this beautiful country into his home. He currently lives with his wife in São Paulo, Brazil.


Smithers Apex: We have seen the personal and home care categories evolve to a more sustainable offerings but customers still remain hesitant to pay a premium for this more ‘sustainable’ products- how do you see this changing in the next 5 years in the South American market?

SchermersDriving a sustainability agenda as a brand or business means that you try to positively contribute to the society you operate in whilst diminishing your negative environmental impact. Any brand or business not driving this agenda basically ignores that the responsibilities versus shareholders, versus employees, versus suppliers, versus consumers and versus society are all to be taken into account at the same time. No brand will survive for very long if it does not really embrace a sustainability agenda, since consumers will simply move away from the brand and will shift their preference to brands that do. Business without sustainability will make itself unsustainable, and thus extinct. So we will see the industry -any industry for that matter- moving towards more sustainable solutions, sourcing, packaging, route-to-market etc.

Smithers Apex: Do you think there is still confusion between what’s advertised on the label and consumer perception in terms of green marketing claims?

SchermersMy feeling is that consumer-knowledge about what is "clean" and what is not in both home care and personal care, is fairly limited, but this will change rapidly. Social media and internet make information flow quickly and will soon help consumers, also in home care and in personal care, make more informed choices. The same trends we see in the food industry, where people are generally more informed, will also have its impact in home care and personal care. And if the industry does not regulate itself, we will see governments take a role to force the industry to make certain moves. One could ask for example: why are not all liquid products in home care concentrated products? Why is the industry still transporting millions liters of water in diluted products, when all products can be concentrated? Consumers will start to ask these questions sooner or later, or governments will. 

Smithers Apex: What role does packaging play in terms of educating the consumers in your opinion?

Schermers: Creating awareness and helping to change behaviour is a role the industry can and should take. So I see a huge role for the industry to stimulate people to use only concentrated products, to use products without phosphates, to be more conscience with the water quantities people use, to recycle etc. That can be on pack, but also in digital, in above the line-campaigns etc. 

Smithers Apex: What are you looking forward to hearing at Cleaning Products Latin America 2015?

I am looking forward to inspiring dialogues and I would love to get the sense that both the personal- and home-care industry are getting more aware how brands can be contributors for positive change in society. Every household in Latam uses products of our categories every single day. So just imagine the impact the industry can have by reducing packaging, by getting more people to use concentrated products only, by getting people to wash using less water and shorter programs? We jointly could do so much if we really wanted and, together with our consumers really make an impact.