Why Your Brand Needs to Have the ‘Carbon Conversation,’ Part 2
Climate change is fundamentally altering many aspects of our lives, including the food and products we buy. Faced with the reality of natural disasters accelerated by a changing climate, including the record-breaking wildfires on the U.S. West Coast and the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, people worldwide are rethinking their consumption habits and how they individually impact the environment.
When the National Retail Federation (NRF) surveyed 18,980 consumers in 29 countries, it learned that consumers now place a far greater weight on brand purpose than on cost and convenience. About 57 percent of consumers surveyed stated they were willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce the negative impact on the environment. A more significant number, 71 percent, said that "transparency and traceability" were important enough that they would be willing to pay a premium for them.
Mastercard also found in a recent worldwide study that there has been "a marked increase in consumer passion for the environment as a result of COVID-19," with 54 percent of those surveyed stating that reducing their carbon footprint is more important now than before the pandemic. Knowing that this is now a top-of-mind concern for consumers, manufacturers and retailers in all categories should evaluate their processes and make changes to meet this demand.
Getting Creative to Reduce Carbon Footprints
Many brands are demonstrating that they do care about bringing the carbon conversation into their business, and we’re doing the same with our clients. More communities and companies are encouraging customers to shop local for their food and other goods, which cuts down on carbon emitted from shipping products long distances.
Similarly, small brands like Blueland and Gove are trying to revolutionize the home products category. Among other things, they sell reusable spray bottles meant to be purchased once, in conjunction with small amounts of cleaning solution that mix with tap water. They argue that traditional cleaners, like Lysol and Windex, consist primarily of water; the weight and cost of shipping that water globally can be drastically cut if consumers use their own.
There has also been a surge in awareness of how dangerous fast-fashion is to the environment and a call to shop for "pre-loved" clothes or those sustainably made with recycled materials. Reused textiles are more environmentally efficient, as recycled polyester produces roughly 70 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than virgin polyester.
Some brands now sell swimsuits and activewear made from plastic bottles to divert waste from the ocean. Others have started adding "sustainable" labels to their apparel products to convey to shoppers that their manufacturing process is green. For example, H&M pledged to use 100 percent recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
Consumers have discovered various ways to individually reduce their carbon footprint, whether through transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet, participating in trends like "meatless Mondays," cutting out single-use plastic, or avoiding fast-fashion. Aware of consumers' changing habits, many brands are now catching up to meet the overwhelming demand for sustainable products and practices.
Sharing the Carbon Burden With Shoppers and Manufacturers
Shoppers care about being eco-friendly; they want to see it from brands, and norms are slowly changing within CPG companies. Still, there are challenges to overcome. It's a common assumption that shopping organically and living sustainably is a privilege or something that only wealthy people can take part in. Consumers have voiced these frustrations with the sustainability movement: 82.6 percent said that higher prices and 51.6 percent said the inconvenience of eco-friendly products were among the top obstacles that prevented them from making greener choices in their daily lives.
Many organic and sustainably made goods can indeed be more expensive, and today's green movement puts significant pressure on the consumer to spend the extra money on "better" products to do their part and save the environment.
That excludes low-income shoppers, who may consider reducing their carbon footprint too expensive of a challenge to undertake. However, we can change this narrative if manufacturers, grocers and other retailers embed themselves in this conversation to take the burden off consumers and bring sustainability into their regular production systems.
If businesses don't participate, they're likely to be left behind by other manufacturers and retailers moving the conversation forward. Shoppers are already making purchase decisions based on a brand’s environmental impact, and this inclination will only grow stronger. Brands that don’t have sustainability front and center will, over time, lose customers and their brand loyalty. Reducing an organization’s carbon footprint, making sustainable decisions, and sharing this information with consumers empowers them to make informed choices while keeping those brands and retailers several steps ahead of their competition.
So, what’s next? Ask yourself what steps your organization is taking to be part of the climate change solution.
Tim Mason is CEO of Eagle Eye Solutions, a leading SaaS technology company transforming marketing by creating digital connections that enable personalized performance marketing in real time through coupons, loyalty, apps, subscriptions and gift services.
Tim has been CEO of Eagle Eye since September 2016, joining as Chairman in January 2016. He has over 30 years’ experience within the grocery and retail industries, with a strong background in strategic marketing and customer loyalty.
Previously, Tim was a managing director at Sun Capital Partners and Chairman of Bonmarché Holdings plc from 2013 to 2015. Prior to that he was Deputy CEO at Tesco from January 2010 to December 2012. He held a number of other roles within the Tesco Group between 1982 and 2012 including CMO for Tesco and CEO of Fresh & Easy LLC. Tim spearheaded Tesco’s bid to crack America, and was responsible for the expansion and operations of 150 stores US wide.
Throughout his career at Tesco, he was renowned for being in touch with the customer, and instrumental in the creation of some of Tesco’s most successful marketing initiatives (Clubcard, Express, Personal Finance and Tesco.com). He is also a Director of It's Fresh Ltd and Purple.