Embracing sustainability from the outset

Embracing sustainability from the outset

By Martin Fawcett, agency services director at 100% Group


Sustainability and responsibility go hand in hand; from the supplier chains we manage to the places we shop to the products we use in our everyday lives. Embracing a planet first mindset and making responsible decisions will help protect the future generations of this planet. Within the retail space, an increasing number of brands are adopting this ethos and moving forward with their sustainability strategies. This evolution is primarily driven by the modern consumer. Today, consumer brands face unprecedented levels of accountability required by their customers, who scrutinise their actions and choices like never before. To make a real difference, brands have a responsibility to not just ‘act’ sustainably but to think how their actions today impact tomorrow.


Conscious consumerism

Over the past decade, the emerging trend of consumers making more informed decisions about their purchases to help bring about a positive change has catapulted. The ‘conscious consumer’ knows what they are buying and why they are buying it. Take your average grocery shop as a prime example. Despite the common stereotype of shoppers filling their baskets on autopilot, they are now actively scanning the shelves to look for sustainable messaging such as if it’s been ethically produced or produced with less waste. This is partially thanks to younger, Gen-Z shoppers who make purchases based on their values and beliefs; as well as the broader influence they’re having on other consumer groups too. According to research, 75% of Gen-Z demographic agree that sustainability is more important than brand name and will pay more money for responsible products and services. However, they are also less likely to be fooled by brands who label themselves as sustainable without the evidence to back it up.


Brands paving the way

Responsible brands are now being considered champions in their field as they are driving the circular economy for their customers. Automotive and clean energy company, Tesla, has experienced incredible growth and now owns one the most popular global car brands – its Tesla Model Y has recently become the first electric vehicle to be crowned the world’s best-selling car! In keeping with its sustainability goals, the business manufactures products made from recyclable materials, has partnered with other companies to create more sustainable innovations (e.g., solar roofs which have the appearance of traditional tiles), and is in the process of building factories that are fully powered by renewable energy. Swedish furniture brand Ikea is another business leading the way by finding ways to destigmatise the negative conceptions associated with its ‘fast fashion for homes’. From giving away free components to recycling old products, it’s listening to what its customers want and are acting on it.


Sustainable thinking

It’s clear that consumer mindset has changed and we’re now seeing people of all ages valuing products in an ethical currency – brands need to respond to this otherwise they risk losing market share to more sustainable competitors. To do this, brand executives need to start thinking about the long-term view of a project before it even starts; from the initial idea and concept, to the customer buying the product, through to end of life. Working with suppliers that can help make an impact at every stage of the lifecycle can ensure the footprint of a project is as minimal as possible. Take for example retail displays which is all about creating a space that people can purchase from. Partnering with a company that considers the materials that are used, how it’s designed, where it needs to be transported to and how it can be re-purposed after its use can help you build a strategy around the sustainability of the project. The end goal is to think circularly so there is reduced resources and less waste polluting our environment.


Potential roadblocks

There are a number of challenges, however, that might cause a few bumps in the road. Firstly, businesses typically think in relatively short budgeting terms which can limit their future-term thinking; this can make conversations about a projects longevity difficult. But ultimately, the decisions that we make now will be impacting our planet in ten years’ time.   Secondly, brands can think differently to their customers; there are many C-suite executives in big retail businesses that still don’t believe that consumers want sustainability. This isn’t due to ignorance. They simply don’t have the facts as there isn’t enough data and insight available to help them make informed decisions. In these scenarios, investment in research is vital to collect customer feedback to demonstrate that it’s what they really want. Finally, from a industry wide  perspective, there’s a belief that acting sustainabily costs more money and this type of process thinking often means brands disregard responsible alternatives as it is not affordable. However, this isn’t always the case as the right supplier can help find ways to achieve a sustainable solution within budget.

All businesses have a responsibility to be more sustainable, for their customers and for the planet. There are many brands out there who are getting it right and implementing innovative initiatives that support a circular economy. With consumers changing their mindset and becoming more conscious about what they buy, it’s time for retailers to start changing their mindset too.


Where do we fit?

We understand that every brand has its own unique sustainability path and we want to be part of the retail experience delivered to customers from the beginning!

Whilst we’ve always played a role in helping retail businesses think more sustainably about their retail installations, we’re broadening our services to make an impact across the full product life cycle.  We will discuss what you’re wanting to achieve and work closely with you to create your vision. Thinking sustainability from the outset will also help determine how your project can be given a second purpose once it is no longer needed in-store.

Why us? We practice what we preach. We’re committed to the sustainability goals set by the UN and as a business, we are continuously looking for ways to lower environmental impact, reduce waste, and be more sustainable. We take responsibility for what we produce and how we produce it and strive to be better. This, in turn, helps us collaborate better with our customers.



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