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Trend: Sustainability

COVID-19 has presented governments, businesses and individuals with unprecedented challenges, and it is still unclear what the ‘new normal’ will look like. However, a sustainable recovery is high on the agenda for many – the UN Environment Programme suggests that ‘we can build back better to create a healthy, resilient, prosperous, just, and decarbonized world’. 

While it is garnering more attention in the news now than perhaps ever before, sustainability has been gaining momentum for years, and it’s here to stay. According to research, products with a sustainability claim delivered $114 billiion in sales in 2018, up 29% compared to 2013, while products marked as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than those that were not.
 
The Business Case
Making a business model more sustainable could deliver significant competitive advantage, offering a point of difference against competitors. In short, becoming more sustainable could help a business make more money in the long-term.

As consumers and business alike become more environmentally aware, sustainability will increasingly become an expectation; in a study, 99% of CEOs from global leaders say that sustainability is ‘critical’ to future success.
 
What Customers Want
These consumer stats back up businesses’ claims that sustainable products are more successful than their less environmentally-friendly counterparts:

- 92% would choose paper-based over plastic-based packaging
- 62% prefer to buy from companies that are reducing their use of plastics
- 66% want greater transparency in how companies source their materials
- 88% of consumers want brands to help them lower their footprint 
- 90% of millenials (born between 1981 and 1986) says they are willing to pay more for sustainable products

Consumers want transparent companies to help them lower their environmental footprint – they prefer to avoid plastics, and are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

Practical Tips for Going Green
- Reduce, reuse and recycle – encourage staff to do this in their place of work (office, store, warehouse), and provide facilities to make this simple, for example, clearly labelled bins, remove single-use cups and plates
- Reduce packaging, and make necessary packaging recyclable where possible
- Use eco-friendly cleaning products that are biodegradable and non-toxic
- Invest in energy efficient equipment such as computers and printers
- Reduce energy costs e.g. by using light sensors in the warehouse
- Review procurement strategy and examine supply chain – where are the easy wins, and where will it be more difficult to implement change?
- Offset impact – for example plant a tree for every product sold
- Spread the word – let customers know about the changes and how this benefits them

Find more inspiration here.

Beware Greenwashing
What it is: Greenwashing means falsely describing business activities or products as sustainable or ‘green’.
Why it matters: As well as being unethical, if a business is caught misleading customers, even accidentally, that will damage its reputation, which could have an impact on the bottom line. Some companies have even been sued for making misleading sustainability claims. 
How to avoid it: Back up sustainability claims up with real statistics and facts. Businesses don’t need to be the ‘greenest’ in order to make a difference, but must remember that transparency is key.
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