It’s no secret that sustainable products are generally more expensive than their conventional counterparts. But why the price difference? And more importantly, is it worth paying extra?
In this post, we will explore the reasons behind the higher cost of sustainable products, including the materials and production processes used, as well as the certifications and standards that make them eco-friendly. We will also discuss the long-term benefits of investing in sustainable products and how they can actually save you money in the long run. Hopefully by the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of the cost of sustainable products and why they are worth your investment in the long run.
So how much more does it cost to be sustainable?
Sustainable products are 75-85 per cent more expensive than conventional products, according to a study by Netherlands consulting firm Kearny.
However, the cost difference can vary widely depending on the type of product and the specific brands being compared. In some cases, sustainable products may be only slightly more expensive, while in other cases, they can be significantly more expensive.
For example, sustainable household cleaning products may only be a few cents more expensive than conventional cleaning products, while sustainable fashion items such as organic cotton t-shirts or sustainably sourced wooden furniture can be significantly more expensive than their non-sustainable counterparts.
As shown in the chart above fashion, health and beauty are all significantly more expensive. A major reason why consumers are finding it hard to make the switch from the products being churned out by fast fashion and beauty industry. Also a hard pill to swallow with recent energy price increases and the ongoing cost of living crises.
So, what’s driving this price difference? Let’s take a look.
8 Reasons Why Sustainable Products are More Expensive than Conventional Products
The lack of demand for sustainable products is one of the main reasons why prices remain high.
Research by Deloitte, the leading consultancy firm, says that 52% of consumers are yet to create a more sustainable lifestyle due to the cost of eco-friendly alternatives. A slightly higher percentage of people wouldn’t hesitate to switch if products were more affordable.
Coupled with the rising costs of energy and personal transport, consumers still find it difficult to make the switch—and many of them want to.
If there is not enough demand for sustainable products, manufacturers may not be able to take advantage of economies of scale, which could help bring prices down. As more consumers prioritise sustainability and show a willingness to pay for it, the demand for sustainable products will increase, and manufacturers will have more incentive to invest in sustainable practices, ultimately leading to lower prices for consumers in the long run.
2. Raw Materials
Unlike conventional products, which often use cheap and readily available materials, sustainable products use materials that have been responsibly sourced, are environmentally friendly, and have been certified to meet certain sustainability standards. These materials often come from sustainable sources that have been grown, harvested, or extracted in a way that minimizes their impact on the environment and supports local communities.
Because these materials are more expensive to produce and source, they can significantly add to the cost of sustainable products. For example, organic cotton, a commonly used sustainable material, is often more expensive to grow and harvest than conventional cotton, which is often produced using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Similarly, sustainably sourced wood, such as FSC-certified lumber, is often more expensive than conventionally sourced wood due to the additional steps required to ensure that it is harvested in a sustainable and responsible manner. Additionally, sustainable raw materials often require more intensive processing and manufacturing methods in order to create a finished product. For example, recycled plastic may require additional sorting and processing before it can be used to make a product, which can add to the overall cost of the product.
Lastly a lot of sustainable brands choose to do business locally including their manufacturing and sourcing of Raw Materials. This brings another set of challenges, a study by the MDPI, Special Issue explains why, it is not always viable to bring business back home. Therefore in certain industries costs increase because raw materials are required that are not available at home and in others because it would be too expensive to replicate manufacturing facilities that were originally outsourced.
3. Manufacturing costs
In many cases, sustainable products require more specialized manufacturing processes and equipment, as well as more skilled labor, which can increase the cost of production. Additionally, sustainable manufacturing practices often require companies to invest in new technology, facilities, and infrastructure, all of which can contribute to higher production costs. However, it is important to note that these additional costs are often necessary in order to ensure that the product is made in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. By investing in sustainable manufacturing practices, companies can reduce their impact on the environment and create a more sustainable supply chain, ultimately benefiting both the consumer and the planet.
4. Following Green Practices
Companies that prioritize sustainability often incur additional costs related to energy consumption, waste reduction, and carbon emissions reduction. For example, investing in renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines can be more expensive upfront, but can save money in the long run by reducing energy costs and reducing the company’s carbon footprint. Similarly, companies that implement waste reduction measures such as recycling programs or reducing packaging can also incur additional costs. However, these practices are necessary to ensure that the product is made in an environmentally responsible way, and to reduce the overall impact of production on the planet. By investing in sustainable practices, companies can create a more sustainable supply chain and reduce their overall impact on the environment, which can benefit both the consumer and the planet in the long run.
Paying fair wages to workers can also add to the price of sustainable products. Companies that prioritize sustainability often choose to pay workers fair wages and provide better working conditions, which can increase the cost of production. For example, companies that choose to source their materials from suppliers that pay fair wages and provide safe working conditions may incur higher costs. Similarly, companies that choose to manufacture their products in countries with higher labor standards may also incur higher production costs. However, paying fair wages and providing better working conditions is important to ensure that workers are treated with dignity and respect, and can lead to long-term benefits in terms of increased worker productivity and better social and environmental outcomes.
The use of non-toxic materials and production processes can also add to the price of sustainable products. Companies that prioritise sustainability often choose to use non-toxic materials and avoid the use of harmful chemicals in production, which can increase the cost of materials and manufacturing. For example, companies that use organic cotton instead of conventional cotton often pay a premium for the organic certification and the use of non-toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Similarly, companies that use non-toxic dyes and finishes may incur additional costs. However, the use of non-toxic materials is necessary to ensure that the product is safe for both the consumer and the environment and can lead to long-term benefits in terms of improved health and reduced environmental impact.
Many sustainable products carry certifications from third-party organizations that verify the product’s environmental and social performance. These certifications often require additional testing, auditing, and documentation, which can add to the cost of production. For example, a company that wants to obtain an organic certification for its products may need to pay for regular inspections, lab testing, and other certification-related expenses. Similarly, a company that wants to obtain a fair-trade certification may need to pay a fee to the certifying organization. However, these certifications provide consumers with assurance that the product was made in an environmentally and socially responsible way, and can help support sustainable and ethical business practices.
Why you should still consider buying sustainable products
The cost of sustainable products should not be the only factor considered when making a purchasing decision. While it may be tempting to choose the cheapest option, it is important to consider the long-term costs and benefits of a product and the environmental impacts across the value chain. Sustainable products may last longer, be made from higher quality materials, or have a lower environmental impact over their lifespan, making them a better investment in the long run. By choosing sustainable products, you can help support companies that prioritise environmental and social responsibility, and help reduce the overall impact of production on the planet.
Sustainable product Inspiration
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