Thai people remain committed to sustainability, despite the dramatic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their livelihoods. Four in five Thais (82%) are more willing to put money behind sustainable brands, representing an untapped opportunity for businesses, according to new research released today.
Blackbox Research and data provider Dynata jointly conducted the study on how Thai people understand sustainability, and the way it affects their perceptions of, and engagement with, brands. The research revealed that businesses are exceeding consumer expectations in terms of sustainability, against a backdrop of growing social and environmental consciousness, with government falling behind.
About one quarter (24%) of Thais are impressed by how companies are driving sustainability, outperforming their expectations (only 15% believe that the private sector is responsible for driving sustainability). This was in stark contrast to their perceptions on government — while more than half (51%) believe it is the government’s job to put sustainability issues on the national agenda, only 30% believe that the state is living up to its responsibility. That means one in five people (21%) think government is under-performing on sustainability issues.
The study also found that foreign brands are dominating Thailand’s sustainability space, according to the research’s brand sustainability index, with Google (1.53) and YouTube (1.33) leading the way. Bangkok Bank and LINE are among the only Asian bands that ranked above average with a score of 1.01 and 1.06.
Commenting on the findings, Saurabh Sardana, Chief Operating Officer of Blackbox Research, noted that there is a strong opportunity for progressive local brands to connect with consumers by becoming more sustainable.
“Our research makes it clear that Thai people no longer consider sustainable products and services as something that is ‘nice to have’, they are ‘must haves’ and consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets in this respect,” said Mr Sardana.
“Business is leading the way for sustainability in Thailand. While our study found global companies are dominating the market in this respect, Blackbox Research believes there is a golden opportunity for progressive Thai brands to pioneer sustainable business, and to help create a brighter future for all while winning the hearts, minds, and spending power of consumers at the same time.”
The study found that the three key sustainability areas that Thai people want businesses to focus on are the elimination of poverty (25%), promoting inter-connectivity and equitable trading systems between countries (22%), and ensuring economic growth by providing employment for all (21%). This shows sustainability is not limited to environmental concerns, and that issues of social justice are a key concern in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy.
“Sustainability can mean many things for Thais,” said Mr Sardana. “Our study emphasises just how important it is for brands to generate accurate and relevant insights into what people think on the ground so they can develop and align their sustainability initiatives accordingly. Using the MCA® for Sustainability measurement platform, we offer actionable outcomes across people, planet, preference & prosperity for global brands. This can be the key to a COVID-19 recovery for many businesses, with a focus on building a sustainable and more inclusive ‘new normal’.”
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance to fast-track efforts towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Thailand is currently performing relatively well in this respect. The Stock Exchange of Thailand is in the top 10 globally for environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) reporting. The Global Compact Network Thailand is working closely with the UN to bring together business leaders, with an investment of 1.2 trillion baht in projects to help to put the SDGs into practice.
Download the full report here.
 For this study, sustainability is defined against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), which outlines goals beyond climate action, and includes other areas such as health, education, gender equality, and more.
 The index takes into consideration how much a brand is perceived to have worked in the interests of people, planet, and economy, and how much consumers want the brand to contribute to the UN SDGs.
Photo by Geoff Greenwood