Sustainability has gone mainstream. And it’s here to stay
With the United Nations coining 2020 as the ‘Decade of Action’, and the entire World thrown into the jaws of a global health pandemic, there’s no escaping the conversation of climate change and sustainability. And you’d be wise not to.
Prior to the pandemic, younger consumers were the leading force behind the movement with 9 in 10 Gen Z consumers believing companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. But a non-discriminating virus makes the fragility of our planet a concern for all demographic groups. For marketeers, the discussion around sustainability should remain front of mind as a way of regaining public trust during a period of deep uncertainty and as a means of safeguarding against future disasters.
So for now, it’s everyone’s business.
Here are 4 sustainability trends you should be aware of as we head deeper into 2020.
01. Blue Beauty
The new movement hitting the beauty industry in 2020. Unlike green beauty, this isn’t just about recycling and clean and sustainably sourced ingredients. It goes further to explore businesses taking positive action to protect the oceans, air and the community.
Beauty Heroes, founders of the Blue Beauty movement provide a platform to hero those brands who are committed to a better, bluer planet.
Source: La Mer, Blue Heart Oceans Fund
“Beauty brands have an increased responsibility when it comes to sustainability as the industry continues to be spotlighted for its environmental impact and waste,”
Gabriella Beckwith, Senior Research Analyst at Euromonitor International.
Brands who fail to keep up, may soon face a real dilemma as consumers will simply refuse to buy. It’s no longer a USP, more a fundamental ingredient that consumers are looking for.
It comes as no surprise that naked beauty bars are popping up in cities all over the World. With wholesome jars filled with raw ingredients from Epsom salt, tea tree powder and activated charcoal, it’s a candy store for beauty lovers.
Accordingly, high-street retailer Sephora is responding to the increased demand for sustainability and is currently testing a pilot recycling program.
The future of beauty definitely looks refillable.
0.2 The Circular Economy
As the spotlight moves away from plastic, a dark shadow is creeping across the Fashion industry.
Research from global fashion platform Lyst, indicates a 37% increase in searches for ‘sustainability’ related items since the start of 2020.
The current throwaway culture of fashion is, by design, unsustainable and needs to change. In April, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour called on the fashion industry to have “more of an emphasis on sustainability” and on “luxury, creativity and craft.”
Unfortunately, the solution lies not only in the ability to produce innovative products, but in the business of fashion itself.
Gucci is rethinking its approach to seasonality, by ditching the ‘worn out ritual’ of the traditional fashion calendar in order to ’regain new cadence’ according to Creative Director, Alessandro Michele. A shift that challenges the environmental and economic sustainability of the jet-setting schedules and the consumption cycles it encourages.
Of course, designing something so good you never need to replace it doesn’t feel like the answer either. Lifestyle brand Patagonia, who has long established itself as a pioneer of sustainable fashion, doesn’t seem to be phased by the concept. The brand’s re-sale arm; ‘Worn Wear’ is entirely dedicated to extending the life of their garments and is gaining traction with its first pop-up store that opened in November 2019.
Will 2020 see the surge of reuse, recycling and rental offerings from fashion brands across the spectrum? Those with notable quality of craft will likely be the real winners, casting a doubt over the future of fast fashion.
0.3 Destination Zero
Unlike sustainability, which lacks a concrete definition, there is a widely accepted definition for carbon neutrality and it’s something that businesses across the spectrum are making commitments to.
The window of opportunity is closing fast if we are to succeed in limiting the warming of the planet by less than 1.5c by 2050 – an ambition set out in The Paris Agreement.
Amazon, who in the past has done very little philanthropy, announced it was committing $10billion to address the climate crisis after workers pressed the company to be more aggressive in its climate goals.
“81% of Millennials are looking for complete transparency when to comes a brands environmental claims and actively talk about their sustainability impact.”
Whilst many luxury brands have always embraced an element of mystery, in the digital age consumers want to make a conscious purchase that reflects their values and ethics.
According to a study from The Carbon Trust, 21% of consumers would pay more for brands that label their products with their environmental footprint.
Sustainable Fashion brand Allbirds, who in May 2020 announced a partnership with adidas, will soon become the first fashion brand to label every product with its carbon footprint. Similar to adding calories to a menu, consumers now have a new purchase criteria and marketeers need to consider this as one of the fundamental elements of their marketing mix.
However, with transparency comes the opportunity to be criticised. Previously this role was left to the advertising standard authorities, however, consumers are playing a more active role in calling out brands they believe are misleading consumers. Estée Laundry, which Refinery29 named the 2019 “Influencer of the Year,” is an anonymous Instagram collective that regularly takes on the misleading or outright false claims of influencers, brands and publications in the beauty industry. Marketeers must consider the issues of corporate greenwashing when establishing their commitments to carbon footprint.
0.4 Decade of Action
Like any pertinent issue, making bold claims won’t solve the problem alone and consumers are demanding brands take action.
It’s perhaps the issue of credibility that is pushing brands to collaborate with established organisations like Prada’s partnership with UNESCO. The Sea Beyond Initiative, due to launch later this year, will provide a secondary school education programme dedicated to sustainability and the circular economy.
Looking to the future, other brands are also embracing the challenge and embarking on meaningful initiatives. L’Occitane’s partnership with Plastic Odyssey begins in 2020; a 3 year expedition around the globe in hope of a plastic free ocean. Similarly, Rolex, as part of its Perpetual Planet Initiative, is supporting 5 individuals seeking solutions to human-kinds most pressing challenges.
Previously, hidden within the corporate pages, these initiatives need to move into the spotlight to demonstrate a brands commitment to action rather than fluffy marketing claims.
The discussion around climate change is very much in the mainstream and the conversation has only been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Brands cannot hide behind the guise of surface level marketing campaigns, as consumers demand complete transparency and expect action at the highest level. However, brands must be water-tight in their claims to avoid falling victim to the consumer ‘watch dogs’ looking for evidence of corporate greenwashing.
Companies must lead from the front and if this means challenging existing business models and reframing entire industries then, so be it.
At a time of great uncertainty, organisations need to maintain relevance with new and existing audiences and place purpose at the heart of decision making.