Written by Megan Ritchie & Emma Day
As a marketing agency, we’re always looking to see how businesses across all sectors are adapting and evolving to meet the demands of consumers. More recently though, businesses recognise that they don’t just have to meet the needs of consumers, but the world too. As climate change continues to be one of the most serious problems our generation faces, it’s evident that action must be taken. Of course, large corporations have a lot to answer for, but businesses of any size can play their part too.
With that in mind, many businesses are now working on becoming more sustainable. Not only should this be for the best interest of the environment, but their consumers too. Consumers are now highly focused on sustainability, so it’s in a company’s best interest to become more sustainable, however that may be. In a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit – commissioned by WWF – it’s highlighted that there has been a 71% increase in online searches across the globe for sustainable goods, over the last five years. As well as this, in a survey conducted by McKinsey in 2020 (PDF), 66% of respondents said that they think about sustainability when they make a purchase, with 75% of millennial respondents echoing that same sentiment.
Whilst some progress has been made in the fight against climate change, there’s still a lot that can be done. In this blog, we’re going to outline some of the ways that businesses in some major industries can become more sustainable. This list is not exhaustive – we know that plenty can be done in each sector to improve the current state of the environment. However, this guide is designed to get you thinking and to give you some inspiration for putting together your own sustainability strategy/action plan!
How Brands In These Different Sectors Can Become More Sustainable
Businesses should improve freight efficiency within their supply chains. Because of evolving consumer needs and rising consumption levels, many single products can now be transported by plane, boat, and lorry before getting to its consumer. Where possible, companies should revise and fine-tune this process to improve their freight efficiency, and thus become more sustainable.
Companies should embrace renewable energy, and therefore increase the energy efficiency of vehicles, including aircraft and trains. Of course, a switch to renewable energy can take some time and is a work in progress, but nevertheless it’s one that should be underway within this sector wherever possible.
Achieve zero-defect production/manufacturing – this is a quality concept that focuses on manufacturing with zero defects and thus eliminating any associated waste. Above all, the aim of adopting this concept is to minimise any costly product recalls as well as resource wastage.
Companies within this sector should replace hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with natural refrigerants for the transportation of food, vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other products that require refrigeration. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, and therefore finding an alternative – such as natural refrigerants – can minimise the greenhouse gas emissions by businesses within the transport sector.
One of the biggest ways that businesses, but mainly governments, can further improve sustainability in the transport sector is to continuously invest in the improvement of our vehicles, trains and infrastructure, including their design and operation. This would then, in turn, reduce injuries, fatalities and losses from railway accidents and road traffic, and would minimise the resources that are often used to deal with these incidents. Of course, when it comes to improving our infrastructure, much of this responsibility does lie with the government, as transport tends to be situated within the public sector. However, businesses that are responsible for the manufacturing of vehicles can certainly take responsibility here by continuously investing in ways to improve their products.
Food & Beverages
Businesses should provide training and best practice guidance to small scale producers. This will not only improve productivity, capacity and logistics but will also have a long-term positive impact on the market efficiency of their operations.
Reduce natural resources and energy used in agriculture and raw material production. One of the biggest challenges in the food and beverage industry is reducing waste and increasing efficiency when it comes to reducing the usage of natural resources across the packaging and distribution processes. However, by putting sustainable measures in place across the supply chain, companies can reduce and measure waste and carbon emissions.
Embed sustainability criteria in project evaluation. Companies should take steps to measure, reduce and report climate exposure, and set measures of accountability, especially for all parties involved in supply chains.
Increase organizational awareness of the sustainability aspects of products, including product design, use and disposal. It is especially important for businesses to understand end-of-product use and disposal impacts. Life cycle analysis is also increasingly important to manufacturers who are responsible for the product’s entire life cycle.
Develop consumer knowledge around sustainable agriculture and consumer products. Businesses can also encourage recycling and sustainable disposal of products to consumers across their packaging and communications.
Monitor and reduce food loss and waste throughout the value chain. Food loss is mainly caused by the malfunctioning of the food production and supply system. However, investing in efficient, low-cost and sustainable processing technologies, adequate storage and packaging solutions, as well as providing training and education, are among the tried and proven interventions that increase the efficiency of the chain and therefore lead to a reduction in food loss and waste.
Marketing & PR
We mentioned earlier that many consumers are now increasingly concerned about climate change and actively consider sustainability when they’re looking to purchase a product. As such, you should carry out market research to explore consumer expectations when it comes to sustainability. Then, act on the feedback and work to implement relevant changes that will help you to become a more sustainable brand.
As a marketing team or company, one of the things that you could take is to support eco-friendly programmes and community initiatives. Not only does this give you an opportunity to show your dedication and passion to the cause, but it’s also a way for you to educate yourself and your teams, and learn valuable information regarding how you can play your part to become more sustainable.
When marketing a product, implement social initiatives that put the onus onto the customer. In other words, educate them and challenge them to choose the more sustainable option that’s available to them. Do this by explaining the benefits and marketing the best product as the morally ‘better’ option. Providing educational information/content is crucial here – you should do what you can to encourage consumers to make better choices and be more sustainable.
Partner with like-minded businesses for cross-promotion. This not only allows you to further establish your brand’s ethos and support corresponding eco-friendly initiatives, but interacting and collaborating with similar brands also taps into a wider audience to communicate a positive and strengthened green message.
Create a long-term plan to demonstrate social responsibility. Social and environmental issues are extremely important and need to be tackled in a larger time frame than seasonal promotions. Aligning a brand to become sustainable as a whole will strengthen organisational and consumer understanding of your sustainable business practices.
Increase consumer awareness of sustainable disposal and life-cycle of garments. We mentioned earlier that businesses should increase organisational awareness of end-of-product use, and this goes for consumer awareness too! Fashion companies can educate consumers on the ways that a product can be used at the end of its life or used in a sustainable way. The disposal techniques most common are recycle, repair, reuse and reduce.
The increasing availability of second-hand shopping and purchasing vintage clothing. By shopping for recycled, longevity clothing consumers are investing in longevity items that can be repurposed and prevent less wasted produce from going to landfills and contribute to a circular fashion economy.
Produce fewer surplus products in order to prevent waste. Fashion companies can create capsule collections and edits rather than larger collection launches to meet customer demand and prevent mass-producing seasonal items and creating surplus stock issues.
Develop sustainable business models with sustainable practices in place across the supply chain. Businesses can implement sustainable structures, to prevent clothing from being discarded into landfills, starting with linear production and manufacturing, by producing high-quality, longevity garments, reusing and repurposing materials and fabric cut-offs, to marketing and incentivising people to shop sustainably.
Reduce carbon emissions through sustainable packaging. Sustainable packaging policies and standards are important across primary packaging, protecting the items, secondary packaging, boxing or bagging the order quantity together and tertiary packing, for shipping and transporting quantities of orders. Companies can use recyclable packaging materials to reduce micro-plastic pollution.
General Tips For All Businesses Across A Range Of Sectors
Encourage employees to work from home when possible – remote working has taken off since the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the other benefits of remote working besides reducing the spread of the virus is that there are fewer cars on the road, and therefore less CO2. Not only does it reduce your business’s carbon footprint, but it can help you to save money on stock, heating and lighting in the workplace.
Buy local goods and/or sustainable products – whether it’s storage, printer paper, or even toilet paper, your business can easily buy essential items that are made sustainably and are recyclable. Better still, using local goods means that transportation of said goods is limited, thus reducing the carbon emissions released into the atmosphere by couriers.
Use energy-efficient alternatives in the office – using energy-efficient appliances and making swaps to more efficient products, such as LED lighting, solar panels, and smart thermostats, are good sustainable practices. As well as helping to save the planet, these alternatives can also help your company to save money too as they are usually cheaper to run!
Do your research and know your facts – there are so many ways that businesses across all sectors can improve their level of sustainability. Knowing what climate change and the associated issues are, as well as what companies in your sector can do to help, will open up a whole range of possibilities for business owners and their teams when it comes to their sustainability initiatives.
How Well Is Your Business Adapting & Evolving?
As climate change continues to be a serious issue that our generation must address, it’s evident that there are many things that businesses of all sizes can do to play their part. As consumers become more aware of climate change and strive to be more sustainable, businesses clearly must adapt and evolve to meet the demands of consumers, as well as the environment, if they want to be successful.
Your company’s ability to adapt and evolve is essential for success, whether that’s adapting to face the issue of climate change, or evolving to increase your online presence through digital marketing. The latter is where we excel – if you’re looking to take your business to the next level with a marketing strategy that’s informed by expertise, insight, and creativity, then get in touch with our team today to start your growth journey.