Consumer expectations toward retail brand sustainability
What is a sustainable brand?
Concerns about climate change, toxicity, and waste have begun to influence consumer behavior around the world. The share of those looking for environmental protection from brands is increasing, and this is pushing companies with a wide variety of products to produce and consume more sustainably.
A global survey of 20,000 customers by food brand giant Unilever found that one in three (33%) people choose brands they believe are good for the environment.
Corporate Social Responsibility or «CSR» is more than just a way for brands to stand out. Sustainable branding is becoming an expectation for today's consumers. Companies that combine their mission and purpose with sustainable values and support environmental and social goals in ways related to their business can greatly influence the public's willingness to buy, invest and work for them.
The Sustainable Brands conference outlined the main characteristics that a roadmap for any green company should include:
- System-wide brand influence.
- Net positive products and services.
- Goals beyond profit.
- Regenerative operations (recycled materials and environmentally friendly processes).
- Transparent and proactive governance.
What problems exist
A study by McKinsey Fashion on Climate study shows that the fashion industry accounts for 4% of global emissions, of which 70% comes from mining, «especially energy-intensive manufacturing, preparation, and processing of raw materials».
Intending to reduce the negative impact of the industry on the environment, 32 major global fashion and textile companies, from H&M and Gap to Burberry and Chanel, have signed Fashion Pact.
The initiative, led by parent company Gucci and French elite house Kering, aims to achieve zero carbon footprint by 2050 and invites the industry to offer «regenerative» approaches to agriculture, including eliminating batch-based intensive farming sources.
To protect the oceans, the pact calls for a reduction in the use of single-use plastics by 2030 and a reduction in microfiber pollution of the ocean from consumers washing synthetic materials. He also urges the industry to embrace the trend towards a circular economy, including recycling and recycling, to come up with new designs using old clothes.
The pact recognizes that much of the industry's unrealized environmental impact lies in the “first mile” of fashion supply chains, for example at the farm level and where the raw materials come from.
According to a November study by the United Nations Environment Program, the apparel and textiles industry generates 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions, more than all international travel and shipping combined. The study says textile dyeing is the world's # 2 water pollutant, and it takes about 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans.
The equivalent of one garbage truck containing textiles is dumped or burned every second, while the laundry dumps half a million tons of microfibers into the ocean every year, the UN agency said.
The industry knows they have a problem. He views sustainability as a key topic of discussion at various industry meetings, especially as he faces increasingly environmentally conscious buyers who are more than willing to ditch brands that don't align with their social values.
Consumer attitudes towards retail sustainability
Deloitte's Global Millennium Generation Survey 2020 shows young consumers are concerned about climate change and unequal wealth distribution. In a survey, 65% of millennials and 57% of Gen Z said they had increased their recycling efforts, and half of 50% and 41% of Gen Z had reduced or stopped their fast fashion consumption.
Among other things, the study notes that 38% of Millenials have initiated or deepened relationships with brands that have a positive impact on the environment, while at the same time abandoning relationships with companies that are perceived to be harmful to the environment or companies that pay managers disproportionate remuneration compared to employees.
It is also important that consumers are willing to pay more for products that are manufactured with sustainability in mind. According to an Accenture survey, more than half of consumers said they would pay more for green products that are intended for reuse or recycling.
Benefits of Becoming a Sustainable Business
- Improving brand image and competitive advantage. The promotion and practice of saving resources not only builds brand awareness but also deeper penetrates employees, their families, and beyond. The opportunity to improve brand image will be lost if the company does not do what it preaches.
- Increased productivity and lower costs. Opponents of sustainability argue that sustainable business practices eat up corporate profits. Developing sustainable business practices promotes efficient work that optimizes effort and conserves resources, which increases employee productivity and reduces costs. Cost reduction also includes energy-saving strategies, which can be as simple as turning off unnecessary lights and insulating walls, to more complex actions such as installing geothermal heating and cooling systems. Those efforts that have a higher overall impact are likely to be more costly to implement, but the long-term results justify the investment.
- Enhancing the ability of the business to comply with regulations. With all the debate about climate change, energy depletion, and environmental impacts, it's no surprise that state and federal government agencies are enacting environmental regulations. Integrating sustainability into your business will enable it to meet changing regulations promptly.
- Attract employees and investors. People love to be associated with positivity, especially the younger generations. They don't want to be associated with companies involved in environmental disasters and social security scandals. Show that your company respects the environment and its employees, and that will attract the people you want to hire and the funds your business needs to grow.
- Reduce waste. This is probably the easiest and most obvious way to engage in sustainable practice. Since the 1990s, when offices were collecting empty cans for recycling, efforts have expanded to include reducing waste in the paper (preserving trees and forest habitats), optimizing product costs (recycling or developing new processes that use fewer raw materials), less waste in production). production of goods), replacement of incandescent lamps with LED ones (greater efficiency in combination with fewer lamps used).
- Make your shareholders happy. Sustainability can not only be used to keep costs down, but it can also lead to increased profits. In its 2014 report, Profit Targeting: How an Organization for Sustainable Development Can Make a Profit, McKinsey researched 40 companies to understand sustainability issues and provide actionable advice “to capitalize on sustainability.” They report that a Deutsche Bank study found that companies with high environmental, social and corporate ratings outperformed the market in the medium to long term. McKinsey reported similar research findings from the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The trend towards sustainability and smart consumption is gaining momentum. More and more brands are paying attention to optimizing production, processing raw materials, and supporting their customers in their efforts to help the planet.
Within the framework of the new eco-reality, support for such an initiative is not a blind pursuit of fashion, but a necessity.
In a number of countries, green production has already been formalized at the legislative level - a ban on the use of single-use plastic in Rwanda, France, India, Morocco, a policy to reduce the amount of hazardous waste in China, a French law according to which supermarkets must donate unsold food to those who need it.
Sustainable business strategies will continue to differentiate consumers from others who are increasingly looking for ways to combine shopping with social benefits. Companies that apply and disseminate these techniques can consistently reap the benefits of reputation and bottom line for their brands.
A side benefit is that the more people trust a brand, the more likely it is to inspire them to take action. A business that embodies sustainability and social aspects in its brand can actually motivate people to buy greener and more sustainable products. Sustainability alone may not be enough to build a strong brand but incorporating it into your overall brand strategy can bring significant long-term value.