Sustainability has well and truly gone mainstream. Once upon a time, caring about the environmental and social impact of business was seen as a niche concern limited to eco-warriors. Now 81% of companies say sustainability is more important than it was five years ago, according to research from Bain & Company.
Businesses obviously want to profit from selling their products and services, but for many companies, simply watching the bottom line is no longer enough. Being purpose-led means a business looks beyond the balance sheet to consider how it impacts workers, local communities and the natural world.
Paying lip service to sustainability is likely to be a waste of time. The Bain & Company study found that 47% of corporate sustainability changes fail, while only 4% succeed. Management’s failure to provide leadership is often a key factor, along with clashes between sustainability and profitability.
Sustainability initiatives might be more likely to succeed if leaders focused on giving customers what they want, rather than merely being seen to do the right thing.
A recent global survey of 30,000 consumers in 35 countries by Global Consumer Pulse Research found that 62% of people want companies to take a stand on issues like sustainability, transparency and fair employment practices.
While around two thirds of consumers wanted brands to be ethical and transparent, the results were more mixed regarding companies pursuing more activist causes. Only 50% wanted companies to stand up for societal and cultural issues they believe in, 38% wanted a brand to give them a sense of community and 38% wanted a brand to take a political stance on issues close to their heart.
It’s clear that sustainable policies are becoming essential rather than optional for businesses that want to be seen as reputable and responsible. However, sustainability goals should be selected carefully.
A recent article on Retail Week predicted the top six ethical trends for 2019, which might give businesses food for thought. The top issue was plastic-free produce, followed by plastic-free packaging, compostable carrier bags, plant-based foods, natural fabric clothes, and clothing resale and recycling schemes.
When it comes to sustainability, plastic pollution is now at the forefront of public concern. A joint Greenpeace/Environmental Investigation Agency report in November found that seven UK supermarkets produce more than 59bn pieces of plastic packaging each year.
Supermarkets are now competing to demonstrate their green packaging credentials, with Iceland and M&S attracting considerable press coverage for campaigns embracing a reduction in food waste, boosting plant-based food ranges and cutting down on plastic packaging.
If you’re still unconvinced that sustainability is now a business must-have, consider the research from Retail Week and DWF that indicates ethical issues are shaping UK consumer habits:
Some 44.5% of British consumers said they were more concerned about the impact we have on the global environment than they were a year ago, and 29% have started to shop at retailers with more ethical or sustainable practices as a result.
Here at Adare, we’re proud to be an organisation with a deep-rooted commitment to sustainable and ethical practices. Our global procurement team works with over 2,500 vendors around the world, assessing each supplier’s performance in terms of quality, health and safety, environmental impact and ethical standards. If you want to make your marketing procurement as ethical and sustainable as possible in 2019, get in touch with our team today: firstname.lastname@example.org.