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• A company's culture – and not necessarily its industry – determines how sustainable it is perceived to be
• Sustainability is only linked to the industry if no company clearly distinguishes itself by its sustainability credentials
• Around 70% of consumers set great store by sustainability when making a purchase, offering great potential which companies can exploit
• By consistently communicating their sustainability credentials, companies can boost their brand image and improve their ability to withstand downturns
• Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important aspect of a company's image and is the impetus behind new business models

The Serviceplan Group recently published its sustainability study, the 'Sustainability Image Score' (SIS), for the seventh time. This study has been published annually since 2011 and investigates the extent to which sustainability and corporate responsibility influence a company's image, consumer willingness to buy, and consumer loyalty. Above all, the study focuses on how companies' efforts to communicate their sustainability credentials are perceived and evaluated by consumers. This year's study shows that around 70 percent of consumers place great value on sustainability when deciding whether or not to purchase a product. It also demonstrates that when consumers evaluate how sustainable companies are, the industry in which the company operates is relatively unimportant – it's the culture at the company that really counts.
Miele, Erdinger, Radeberger, Landliebe and Kneipp lead the SIS rankings for 2017 as the top 5 companies for sustainability.

Munich, December 1st 2017  The Serviceplan Group recently published the seventh edition of its annual sustainability study, the 'Sustainability Image Score (SIS)'. Its findings clearly show that when consumers evaluate how sustainable companies are, the culture at the company is the overriding factor rather than the industry in which the company operates. Kerstin Niederauer-Kopf, General Manager at Facit Research, explains the findings in more detail: "If we look at the automotive sector in particular, we can see that the manufacturers that have been caught up in the emissions scandal, like VW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, have received a worse rating from their customers for the second year in a row. BMW, which has led the pack for years when it comes to its sustainability image, is the only manufacturer to escape largely unscathed." According to her, this is down to a number of different reasons: "Not only has BMW barely been affected by the scandals so far, it also takes a clear and effective approach to communicating its commitment to sustainability as a business, and this strategy is geared towards the long term."

The SIS study also confirms that these findings aren't just limited to the automotive sector. In the fast food industry, Nordsee has proven that it, too, can buck the trend and be perceived in a positive light by its customers, by taking a considered, authentic stance as regards sustainability.

Given that the topic of sustainability is currently all the rage, it's crucial for companies to draw up and pursue a credible sustainability strategy which is designed for the long term. It's essential that companies put corporate responsibility at the heart of what they do at all levels, and make it clear to their internal employees and external customers and partners that they are pursuing such a strategy. After all, the top 10 ranking from the SIS 2017 is almost exclusively made up of companies that consistently place sustainability centre stage throughout the company. According to Christoph Kahlert, Managing Partner of Serviceplan Corporate Reputation and the person behind the SIS, the findings speak for themselves: "The top 10 companies in the SIS ranking are consistently perceived by consumers to be particularly trustworthy and have an effective sustainability strategy. Companies like Miele, Kärcher and BMW are clearly well aware that their commitment to sustainability needs to be a key message in their marketing and communication activities."

New industries join the 2017 ranking

This year, the beer and body care industries joined the ranking for the first time, with both reaching the top 5 straight away. What's more, three of the top 5 companies come from these two industries. The beer industry is particularly worthy of mention, as four of nine brands performed very well in terms of their sustainability image, making it into the top 25.

Differing opinions on sustainability

This year's study also investigated a new aspect for the first time – what role sustainability plays in consumers' decisions to buy a product. The study focused above all on the types of people in the various target groups and their opinions on sustainability. The findings show that there are three distinct types of people when it comes to views on sustainability. These types differ in terms of how sustainability influences their decision to buy and their overall interest in sustainability as a topic. "Around 70 percent of customers consider sustainability to be important when deciding whether or not to make a purchase, either in terms of the actual product or the company. Only a small proportion of customers believe that sustainability plays no role at all," comments Kerstin Niederauer-Kopf. This targeted SIS analysis of target groups not only serves to underline the importance that consumers place on sustainability nowadays, it also highlights the major opportunities this brings for companies.

About the SIS

The Serviceplan Group has been publishing its sustainability study, known as the 'Sustainability Image Score (SIS)', every year since 2011. It investigates the image of individual companies or entire industries from the point of view of consumers as regards sustainability, and how sustainability affects a company's image. The study is carried out jointly by Facit Research and Serviceplan Corporate Reputation in collaboration with the German weekly business news magazine, WirtschaftsWoche, as the media partner. The findings from the SIS 2017 are based on an online survey of more than 18,000 consumers, who were asked their thoughts on 109 companies from a total of 15 industries. This year, the beer and body care industries were included in the study for the first time.

Definition of sustainability

For the purposes of the SIS Index, sustainability comprises the three dimensions of ecological sustainability (responsible use of resources, environmentally friendly technologies, environmentally friendly products, etc.), financial sustainability (an assessment of whether a company carries out its business in a fair and reputable manner or is prone to questionable business practices) and social sustainability (whether a company offers good working conditions and job security and accepts its responsibility towards society).

Picture 1: Christoph Kahlert, Managing Partner of Serviceplan Corporate Reputation
Picture 2: Kerstin Niederauer-Kopf, General Manager at Facit Research

The official website for the SIS 2017: www.sustainability-image-score.com

The SIS 2016: sp-url.com/sis2016
The SIS 2015: sp-url.com/sis2015
The SIS 2014: sp-url.com/sis2014
The SIS 2013: sp-url.com/sis13
The SIS 2012: sp-url.com/sis2012
The SIS 2011: sp-url.com/sis11


Claudia Kirchmair

Claudia Kirchmair
Corporate Communication & PR

+49 89 2050 2273

E-Mail: c.kirchmair(at)serviceplan.com