Sustainability: Opportunities and challenges for brands

This article is part of a series of articles on sustainability. Read more.

Need to know

  • 62% of consumers are attracted to companies that believe in reducing plastics and improving the environment
  • Businesses will shift from the traditional ethos of “take, make waste” and embrace the ‘circular economy’ which puts emphasis on reverse logistics, repair, maintenance, disassembly, end of life, collection, hygiene and labelling
  • Collaborate with others to solve problems collectively. 250 companies, including PepsiCo, Unilever and H&M, will team up with governments to boost recycling and end the flow of plastic into oceans
  • Companies such as Apple and Dell are implementing ‘recycling by design’, developing products with an eye to eventually recycling as many parts as efficiently as possible
  • Despite every initiative to promote sustainability, globally only 20% of plastic is recycled and 55% still ends up discarded
  • To remove potential barriers to behavioural change, brands must ensure their sustainable products are desirable, affordable and convenient as non-sustainable alternatives
  • Companies should think about how they can make the experience of refilling, borrowing, returning or disposing as easy as possible
  • Brands have an opportunity to help consumers navigate the complexity of promises, certifications, and what’s “real” versus what’s “greenwashing”. Tell stories around traceability, sourcing and impact to cut through and differentiate
  • Sustainability should not be an add-on or a nice to have, it should be integral to your product
  • Think about how to monetise and extract value from something that is no longer wanted, as well as how to create new value where it was previously non-existent
  • At Unilever, sustainable brands have seen on average 30% faster growth than Unilever brands that aren’t, with those sustainable brands now delivering 70% of the company’s growth

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