This year, Paris, along with a host of other cities across Europe faced the highest ever recorded summer temperatures. People and governments need to start taking global warming seriously and take measures to curb this imminent threat.
At least, unlike previous dismissive attitudes where popular country leaders mocked global warming as a figment of our imagination and reduction in our ability to tolerate heat and cold, many of the leaders have started talking about working towards renewable energy and fighting deforestation. How much of it is lip service, and how much would actually translate to effective action is yet to be seen.
However, the clarion call has been heard by most of the common folks. Global warming and sustainability of this planet has started gaining more awareness and this will impact the way consumers behave. Consumer behavior defines how brands are consumed. And brands would be better off listening to this and adapting to the trend.
Here are a few of the areas where brands could probably be affected fast and the most.
Packaging: The polluting “P” needs to change
Globally FMCG brands produce a huge amount pollution through their packaging material. Single usage products alone would probably constitute major part of their sales, especially items like food, beverage and personal care products like shampoos and soaps. The oceans and landfills are filling up with these waste materials which most often do not reach the recycling process.
Considering such negative effects that brands are having on the environment, it is about time that major players set the stage for transformation to more environment friendly materials.
Recently Nestle declared their shift for one of its brands, Yes snack bar, to recyclable paper packaging. This is a great move by the Swiss FMCG giant towards sustainability, considering that changing wrapper material is not so simple.
Packaging has a lot of impact on the shelf life and preservation of products. Reducing barrier properties on the wrapping material induces shorter shelf lives.
So, although Nestle has set the ball rolling, completely sustainable packaging for all FMCG food products might not be possible immediately. Brands will have to mobilize further research and product development towards developing hardier foods which do not require plastic.
I know it is easier said than done to innovate. But it would be great for the world to see some of the long shelf life products coming out in sustainable packaging like the Nestle Yes bar.
Sustainable products will probably be priced higher
The fashion industry is said to be one of the biggest polluters. With consumerism on the rise for the past many years in high growth economies like India and China, the fashion industry has seen good growth. With growth comes greater pollution.
Brands like Zara have been accused of being major culprits due to its fast fashion products, which change every few months. No wonder, Zara has declared that it will make its products from completely sustainable material by 2025.
But will it remain inexpensive?
I guess such moves towards lower scale, more sustainable, yet more expensive raw materials, will hike the prices up and affect the market. In such cases, strong brands can still survive. Take the case of Adidas.
Adidas started making shoes from recycled plastic. But the shoes are quite smart looking and I bought myself a pair, despite paying about twice as much as my previous Asics for it. In fact, the Adidas Ultra Boost that I bought was even more expensive than the most expensive Nike shoes I had in mind back then. But the shoe being made from recycled waste, and that it didn’t have any major negative reviews, won my money over.
Food Products are evolving too!
Did you know that meat-consumption is one of the contributing causes for global warming? I didn’t know that a while ago. Well, all the cries by PETA couldn’t save those poor animals from being consumed. Meat has that taste and meat-lovers can hardly stay away.
However, the problem of Global warming remains. That’s why, smart innovators from a company called, “Beyond Meat“, have come up with something that tastes similar to meat, but is not meat: Plant based meat.
Plant based meat is becoming more prevalent and acceptable. It might not be exactly like our favorite beef or chicken tastes, but its getting closer as the developers continue burning midnight oil funded by the recent blockbuster IPO that they had.
Even Subway, one of my go-to fast food joints, has announced that it will start using products from Beyond Meat for its “Meatless meatball sub”. Imagine how the world is changing so fast around us.
Apart from Subway, McDonalds and Burger King have also announced intentions to introduce meat-less meat soon, possibly from the company called Impossible Foods.
Has your brand considered evolving in this direction yet?
Companies with sustainability initiatives would Promote better
With governments coming under pressure by the youth and the activists, there are likely to be shifts in policy to favor and incentivize companies which adopt more sustainable methods. When the axe falls, the ones who are quick to take measures would benefit or even better, those with prior initiatives could get competitive advantage.
It is not only about the govt. policies, but also about how consumers perceive you. Brands need need to have a responsible and trustworthy image. Sustainability initiatives will give brands the additional positive aura around the brand.
Unilever ex-CEO Paul Polman probably understood this better than most leaders long ago. He started Unilever’s journey towards sustainability quite a while ago. You can read about it here.
Even as the leadership changed, the new CEO Alan Jope, who took over this year in January has already taken his first step towards shedding off brands that are harmful towards the environment. He is quoted to have asked, “Can these brands figure out how to make society or the planet better in a way that lasts for decades?”. You can read the full article here.
These are some of the ways we would probably need to adapt in near future. However, we should not only look at this as our obligations. This is our responsibility too.
As marketers and brand owners, we influence a lot of people. We influence consumer behavior. We share a great responsibility towards the consumers and that includes thinking about their well being. I believe we should keep that in mind in our professional lives.
In this regard, the first post I wrote this year was about how brands can contribute to sustainability. You can check out the post here.
Please feel free to drop your comments in the section below. Have a lovely weekend!