Sustainability is no longer an abstract concept. A stark warning, published by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told the world in a chilling report that if the rate of global warming is not slowed down, the population will be faced with unfathomable and relentless natural disasters. Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes across the globe, and taking action to create a more sustainable future must be a priority.
A 2020 World Economic Forum survey found that 86% of respondents want to see more sustainable and equitable products in the post-pandemic market. Brands will need to engage with the key consumer mindsets to thrive in this growing market.
Consumers expect change from companies, and many are willing and want to actively participate in building a better world alongside the brands they choose. According to a 2020 report by IBM Institute for Business Value, six out of 10 consumers are ready to change their purchasing behavior to minimize their environmental footprint. Data suggests this has intensified during the pandemic.
Carla Buzasi, President & CEO, WGSN, commented, "Governments, businesses and individuals are using the upheaval of the pandemic as a chance to reset, and this has become intrinsically linked with building back more sustainably and equitably. For brands, this represents immense opportunities, but also great risks for those that don't move with the moment. Our white paper provides a toolkit to thrive in this time of transition, outlining the areas where businesses can win, the strategies for success, and the consumer profiles brands need to be talking to now."
An insightful whitepaper from WGSN lays out a plan for creating better, and how to innovate towards a sustainable future.
Regenerative sourcing: Regenerative agriculture is set to be a game-changer for many industries, resulting in more responsible sourcing. Regenerative farming practices actively improve environmental conditions such as soil quality and biodiversity, reinvigorating soil to actually sequester carbon.
Track-and-trace fibers: Track-and-trace technology will help rebuild trust and transparency in supply chains, ensuring people buy your product. Tracking your fiber usage will be crucial to measure your business's progress on carbon-based targets and deliver an accountable strategy. In the future, this may inform the level of a business's tax rate, its access to preferential loan and insurance terms, and its ability to attract investors.
Responsible design: Growth in terms of volume of items and speed has often come at the expense of design, as the product-person relationship is dominated by algorithmic-driven highs that quickly fade, leaving unwanted (or worse, unsold) products. Considered design practice is the tool to tackle this issue.
Rethinking packaging: With the growth of e-commerce already problematic from a sustainability standpoint, high environmental-impact packaging needs to be tackled at source. That means everything from mailers and garment poly bags to hangers, e-commerce boxes, and shipping cartons.
WGSN identified three consumer mindsets:
Democratic sustainability: The value-driven consumer’s sustainability expectations are focused on both the price point and accessibility of products and services. Increasingly driven by value for money and a need for independence, this cohort will seek convenient, local solutions that simplify their life and give them a regained sense of control.
Active sustainability: The purpose-driven consumer is channeling their fears about the climate emergency into hope and action. They are willing to adopt new behaviors in order to reduce their ecological footprint and want to participate in changing the world for the better.
Outsourced sustainability: The disengaged consumer is driven by a sense of mistrust in institutions and rejects the responsibility of minimizing their personal environmental impact. Instead, they place their expectations on businesses to step in and lead environmental transformation.
WGSN has identified the following strategies to engage with these consumers:
Focus on affordability and accessibility: 63% of consumers consider value for money a key purchase driver, according to research from KPMG. Brands will need to prioritize convenience and affordability when engaging value-driven customers with more sustainable offers, products, and services.
Help consumers buy more sustainably: 57% of consumers are willing to change their purchasing behavior to be more responsible, according to an IBM Institute for Business Value survey. Brands looking to engage purpose-driven customers should provide products that support a shift towards more sustainable purchasing, from personal carbon footprint-tracking apps to zero-waste options.
Build trust with educational material: According to a State of Plastic Recycling report, two-thirds of adults do not recycle all their plastic waste due to a lack of information and confidence in the recycling system. Brands wanting to win over disengaged consumers should provide truthful and reliable content that helps them navigate complex topics related to sustainability, such as instructions on how to recycle products at the end of their lifecycle.
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