It’s the word you hear every day when you shop: sustainability. But what does it mean and what should companies be doing about it? The Conference Board has just completed an exhaustive worldwide study of 30,000 consumers in 64 markets and has some definitive answers to those questions. Here are the five most important takeaways.

1. What Sustainable Means

Unfortunately, the meaning of sustainability depends who you ask because the answer varies by region around the world.

  • In the U.S. and Canada, the most important meaning is “recyclable.”
  • In Asia, it’s “environment.”
  • In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, it means a fair price.
  • In Latin America, it’s about products made from alternative sources of energy.

2. Sustainability Is Not The Key Criterion, But It Can Tip The Balance

Consumers say they won’t buy a product only because it has sustainable characteristics. But the research found that once consumers find a product with acceptable price, function, performance, quality and convenience, consumers prefer the sustainable product and it’s a competitive edge.

3. There’s A Lot Of Confusion

The reason brands who have fair labor conditions and practices lose customers is that consumers can’t tell who’s more fair. Having third-party certifications may be a big help on the issue until standards are developed so that everyone can be measured equally. There is also an issue of trust: Without third party verification, consumers don’t know who to trust.

Read the rest of Richard Kestenbaum’s article at Forbes