Why Quality Over Price is Always the Sustainable Choice

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Price is almost always the most important consideration when we make a purchase. An item may need to fall within a certain budget and sometimes we’d just rather not spend the money if we don’t feel we have to. However, focusingly solely on price and choosing the less expensive item can actually come at a cost. Consistently choosing the cheaper option not only cost you more money in the long run, it actually sacrifices the quality of a product or service and degrades its value overtime. Let me explain.

Choosing quality over price is almost always the sustainable choice because it eliminates waste, improves efficiency, and supports businesses that prioritizes value. Investing in a quality product ends up saving you money since it will need to be replaced less frequently and focusing on quality also encourages corporate social responsibility practices.

Price will always be a factor in your decision making for buying a product, but today’s post will hopefully show you that it shouldn’t be the only one. Price and sustainability are inherently connected, and our decisions in one category will have an influence on the other. We’ll look at this link, the factors associated with quality, and how we as consumers help make these decisions.

The Connection Between Quality and Price

The correlation between quality and price can give us a good idea about a product, but it is not always accurate. We shouldn’t assume that all high-quality products are expensive and that all cheap items are poor quality. We have to do a bit more research when buying a product to make this determination.

A high price tag could indicate either of the following:

  • Bad value: You may be paying too much for a product that will not be long lasting or work properly
  • High quality: The product’s high quality may make the price tag worth it as you can’t find a product of equally high value elsewhere

A low-price product can also mean the following:

  • Great value: If costs are low on the company’s end, they can offer a high-quality product at a lower price point
  • Poor quality: The price may be low because the product is not worth much and does not pack the necessary features to drive the price upward

How You Should Look at Pricing in Regards to Quality

When you look at a product and its price, you are most likely judging how good you think the product is compared to its competitors. Different factors go into setting the price of an item, and the high costs may be associated with value and the quality of materials or with different things as well:

  • Supply and demand: The simple economic principles come into play here as how much you and others are willing to pay for something that will impact the price. If everyone wants it, the price will go up. If no one does, companies may have to lower the price. This is regardless of the quality.
  • Brand recognition: Name brand items will often be more expensive than generic. This does not necessarily mean that the name brands are better or are of high quality. They are usually higher priced because they have built a reputation for quality and trust, but this doesn’t mean the other choices aren’t just as good!
  • Production costs: If it costs more to make a product, the price sold to you will often be higher so companies can make a profit. This could mean that the materials used are of better quality, but it could also mean that the company is not very efficient with their production.

These factors will influence the price you see and may also impact your behaviors in purchasing a product beyond considerations about quality.

Quality Costs

At the same time, there are important costs that are directly related to quality. In most cases, better raw materials will drive prices higher, but there are other quality costs that are often overlooked. These are called quality costs, and they are costs that are incurred to meet your expectations as a consumer, with different categories for different types of buyers.

These are the costs that go into upholding the quality of the product and not necessarily improving it. It is important to understand these costs as they can dramatically influence the price tag you see in the store.

These are the different types of quality costs:

  • Prevention costs: These costs are incurred to prevent problems with quality from occurring. Prevention can be significantly less costly than fixing something after it goes wrong. These costs include employee training, statistical process control, supplier certification, and product design.
  • Appraisal costs: Closely related to prevention, these are costs associated with inspections for quality. This can prevent defected items from leaving the factories and costs associated with testing products for quality.
  • Internal failure costs: When a defective product is produced, it will cost money to either fix or replace these goods.
  • External failure costs: If a defective product goes go out to the stores, there could be costs associated with product recalls, field service, lawsuit fees, warranty claims, and the loss of clients.

If a company is doing everything in its power to uphold quality, prevention costs should be the largest driver and will keep costs relatively low. This is unpredictable but does come down to company responsibility and diligence. This will account for a large portion of the product cost and is not often displayed when costs are reported.

Marketing and Pricing

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How a company markets its products to you can have a large impact on the price point as well as how we view the product line. There is significant research done by companies to understand when and what you will buy at a certain dollar value. Finding the right number will bring in the consumer and hopefully build your trust once you have tried the product.

One marketing strategy companies use is starting low and increasing the price over time. This can be a successful strategy if the product quality is high. A great example of this is a Netflix subscription. The company gets you hooked at a low monthly price, and increases the price over time. Because their library is large and quality is high, many people didn’t cancel.

Marketing can also illuminate the qualities of the product or create different associations between your life and the product. The ‘coolness’ factor associated with a product could drive the price up even if it isn’t well made. At the same time, a product may be the best performer, but it never catches on because the company didn’t successfully woo you in.

Apple products are a prime example of how marketing has been successful. They have created a clear association in our minds of being high quality, expensive, and the hip product to own. They are not going to lower their prices because it would go against their brand and could hurt this reputation.

Quality or Price?

The good thing about quality and price is that you do not always have to sacrifice one for the other. If you do have to choose, you should try and find a nice balance between the two. If a product is higher quality and higher priced, this still may be the better option as you might not have to replace it. Doing research is key in determining the quality of the product beyond price.

We often associate quality with price because we don’t know a ton about the product beyond that. If you are looking at a larger and more expensive purchase, doing as much research about its quality is advised. You will be able to find the characteristics you desire and then look at how different brands offer those things at different prices.

Whether or not you are on a budget, you should consider both low and high-priced items. If you look beyond the price tag, you may see that there is value to be offered (nor not offered) in these individual products. You may find some steals with great value if you consider those that are less expensive.

Buying guides are a great online tool to look at for a specific product you are considering. They are often broken down into different categories depending on what matters to you (insert desired product below):

  • Best product for the price (emphasizes value)
  • Best high-end product
  • High quality product
  • Best product for a desired purpose

These are just a few of the many detailed searches you can do to find the best product. Websites have already reviewed the products for you so you can make a more educated decision on your purchase beyond this connection between price and quality.

Quality and Sustainability

Sustainability is the ability to exist over long periods of time or always been in existence. As sustainability relates to products or services, sustainable products are those that eliminate waste in that they do not need to be replaced, they are produced with greater efficiency, and the company’s making them are engaging in socially responsible business practices.

For a product to be long lasting, it is typically of high quality. Long lasting and quality products may be important to you for a variety of reasons:

  • Economic benefits: If price is important to you, making one more expensive purchase now may be a greater investment than buying something over and over because it needs to be replaced. The money you spend in the long run may be less than the need for repeated purchases.
  • Environmental impact: If a product is of poor quality, it can break and need to be thrown away. This waste builds up as more and more people throw their items away. At the same time, these inexpensive products may be built with materials that are harmful to the environment. Companies may keep costs down by using chemicals and cheap plastics that emit toxins into the air. 
  • Product and customer satisfaction: A long lasting product will work, and you can depend on it. Dependability may be important in order to successfully use the product without fear or chances of it breaking. You may be likely to buy products from the specific company again because trust has been built between you and the product.

Sustainability can work to improve efficiency by changing the process in which products are made. If you voice to companies (through feedback or buying decisions) that you value products that are well-made and long lasting, they will work to make their processes more efficient while upholding value in order to satisfy your needs and prioritize your needs.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming more of a priority for companies because consumers like you have pushed the needle in that direction. They want companies to make their products in a way that allows them to uphold their value and engage in business practices that improve our world, rather than hurt it.

Sustainable Shopping

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While your buying decisions can push a company to make better choices in the quality they put into a product, quality and sustainability are also in your control in shopping practices. This will drive you to make better shopping decisions for a product you will value (both in quality and price) and will also have a larger positive impact.

Shop Online

Sustainability goes beyond the item you purchase. When you shop in a brick and mortar store, you will often have to use gas to get there, which has negative environmental impacts. You may drive around to multiple stores to find the same thing when you could do this research and prep from home.

If you are going to go to a store, see if there are other options to driving. Consider using public transportation, riding a bicycle, or walking. These will help to achieve much greater efforts towards sustainability on a global scale. When you research online, you can make one trip to a store if you’ve done the research ahead of time.

The Internet is incredibly useful for giving you suggestions and recommendations for products that are produced sustainably and ethically. This online shopping and research promote sustainable shopping practices from a local to a global scale.

Certifications and Specifications

Items will often have certifications or information about how they are made and if this is done ethically. This will cover a variety of industries, and these factors have large impacts on quality.

You can see if clothing is sustainable by looking at these factors:

  • Use of hazardous chemicals
  • Eco-friendly production processes
  • Organic fiber materials
  • Wages of workers
  • Safe working conditions for workers

Different factors matter to some more than others, and you should first determine what your values are when you are shopping for clothing or other products. For products you are looking to buy, look to see what materials are considered toxic and what the safe alternatives are. Commit to only choosing between safe materials. These materials may be more expensive to produce but are often better for the environment without sacrificing quality.

Shop Less

This may be hard to swallow, considering how consumerism is a major part of our lives. We like having lots of things and variety in those items. If we can shift our mindset to only buy items we need, we can live with fewer and higher quality items. These are intended to last a long time, requiring fewer purchases throughout your lifetime.

Getting greater life out of a product not only cuts your costs down and gives you a better functioning product, but it reduces the environmental impact associated with more purchases. While a company has a lot to do with the sustainability of products, you have the power to make educated buying decisions that help you and the greater community.

Choose Quality Over Price for Sustainability

As this article has shown, price is not always a clear indicator of quality, but quality has a direct positive impact on sustainability. When choosing between products, price may be an attractive thing to look at in making your decision, but it shouldn’t be the only thing. You can actually get a lot more out of a high-quality product when you don’t have to replace it down the line.

The price tag can often distract us from the quality at hand. With high quality products being offered in all price categories, we have to dig a bit deeper and do some more research in order to make a well-informed purchase. This is especially true when you are making bigger purchases, and it is a product you will want to be long lasting and hold great value.

You should be looking at the long-term when making a purchase and asking yourself these questions in order to acquire a high quality and sustainable product:

  • Will I need to replace this soon after buying?
  • Can I afford to pay more now in order to save money in the long run?
  • Is this product sourced sustainability by the company I am purchasing it from?
  • Do I need this item?

Running through this small checklist will help improve your decision making so that you can look past the price and make a purchase that looks more closely at the quality of the product. Not only does this promote greater sustainability on an individual level in that you end up with a better product it also has larger societal impacts related to the environment and consumerism.

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Jodie Locklear
Jodie is a former art teacher turned Graphic/UX Designer and QA Manager. She's applied her knowledge of visual design and software testing on many projects over the years, ranging from small businesses to large well known brands and organizations. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, blogging, and travel. View About Page

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