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TRUST GOES SOCIAL: Global Study Finds Peers, Consumer Reviews Now Rival Certifications As Top Sources of Trust on Product Sustainability Claims

Traditional company communications are least trusted sources of information on sustainability

Published 05-21-13

Submitted by BBMG

Trust is no longer in your hands. According to a study by BBMG, GlobeScan and SustainAbility, social sources of trust like consumer reviews, blogs and message boards (28%) as well as friends, family and co-workers (27%) now rival traditional sources like certifications (40%) and media reports (31%) as consumers’ most trusted sources for determining whether a product is socially and environmentally responsible. Barely one in ten consumers relies on company advertisements or website content for information, showing that the most trusted sources are often beyond a company’s control.

According to the study – Re:Thinking Consumption: Consumers and the Future of Sustainability – consumers in emerging markets (Brazil, China and India) are more than four times as likely as those in developed markets (UK, USA, Germany) to turn to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a trusted source of information (22% to 5% respectively).

“Our findings reflect the new context for corporate reputation and trust, as peer-to-peer communication and social platforms rival certifications and media reports as the most reliable sources of information on sustainable product claims for consumers,” says Eric Whan, Sustainability Director at GlobeScan. “Forward-thinking brands will increasingly tap peer networks and social media channels to try to drive trust. Authenticity will determine their success.”

“Simply put, companies no longer own their brands. They are co-owned and co-created by consumers whose experiences, ideas and opinions are now shaping brand perceptions and trust,” says Raphael Bemporad, co-founder of brand innovation consultancy BBMG. “Companies that cultivate honest and collaborative relationships with consumers will be best positioned to win their trust, loyalty and participation.”

Re:Thinking Consumption Report – Key Findings:

Most Trusted Sources: Consumers’ most trusted sources “to inform you about whether a product is environmentally and socially responsible” include certification seals or labels on product packaging (40%), media reports (31%), consumer reviews, ratings, blogs or message boards (28%), friends, family or co-workers (27%) and government information or reports (25%).

Least Trusted Sources: Consumers’ least trusted sources include company advertisements (11%), films or documentaries (11%), company website or a company’s Facebook page (7%) and church, temple or other spiritual communities (3%). Five percent of consumers say they have “no way of knowing who to trust for this information.”

Market Differences: Twenty-two percent of consumers in emerging markets identify “social media like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn” as one of their most trusted sources of information, while only 5% of consumers in developed markets choose the same.

Twenty percent of consumers in emerging markets identify “corporate social responsibility or sustainability reports” as one of their most trusted sources of information, while only 9% of consumers in developed markets choose the same.

Fifteen percent of consumers in emerging markets identify “endorsements by organizations you trust” as one of their most trusted sources of, while 29% of consumers in developed markets choose the same.

Background and Methodology:

Developed by BBMG, GlobeScan and SustainAbility, Re:Thinking Consumption is an in-depth online survey of consumer attitudes, motivations and behaviors relating to sustainable consumption among 6,224 respondents across six major international markets (Brazil, China, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States) conducted in September and October 2012. Drawn from consumer research panels, global data are comparable to having a margin of error of +/- 1.3 percent. Analysis of country-level data reflects a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

The study was made possible by BMW Group, SC Johnson, Campbell Soup Company, Itau, L’Oréal, Shell and Starbucks. For more information, and to download a free copy of the study, visit

About BBMG: Based in New York City, BBMG is a brand innovation consultancy dedicated to creating disruptive business solutions and delightful brand experiences to help organizations achieve business success and positive social impact. By integrating branding with sustainability expertise and innovation protocols, BBMG helps clients identify growth opportunities, forge new markets, create new brands and drive real culture change. Recent clients include NBCUniversal, MillerCoors, Brown-Forman, Walmart, Samsung, Seventh Generation and Earthbound Farm. For more information, visit

About GlobeScan: For 25 years, GlobeScan has helped clients measure and build value-generating relationships with their stakeholders. Uniquely placed at the nexus of reputation, brand and sustainability, we partner with clients to build trust, drive engagement and inspire innovation within, around, and beyond their organizations. For more information, visit

About SustainAbility: SustainAbility is a think tank and strategic advisory firm working to inspire transformative business leadership on the sustainability agenda. Established in 1987, SustainAbility delivers illuminating foresight and actionable insight on sustainable development trends and issues. For more information, visit

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BBMG is a brand and social innovation consultancy dedicated to creating business growth and positive social impact. We’re strategic creatives and creative strategists, culture experts and design thinkers. We build brands with purpose that are relevant to a new generation and resilient for the fast, transparent and volatile world we live in today. To learn more about how we build brands for humans, visit

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