Everyday the press is awash with dire warnings of the devastation we are wreaking on the planet and the unspeakable consequences of our inaction. Consumers stare passively at the Everest-sized challenge in front of them, terrified by its enormity. Meanwhile, corporations are petrified their sustainability efforts will not only eat into profits, but will also be dismissed as ‘greenwashing’ by hyper-critical sustainability advocates.
So what happens? Resigned to the fact that measurable change seems impossible to achieve, everyone gives up and does next to nothing. It’s for this reason we think sustainability is a waste of time. If the word appears anywhere in your marketing plans, we recommend you strike a line through it immediately.
Wait! Before you take to social media to make us the latest victim of cancel culture, please let us clarify that we are talking about the ‘word’ sustainability, not the concept.
If you think about it, the word sustainability sounds a bit static; like it’s something you do once, tick the box and forget about.
The word doesn’t even come close to carrying the gravitas for a concept which ultimately means ‘the essential life-choices which will guarantee our future’.
But make no mistake, that’s exactly what it means. We need to be aiming way beyond merely creating something ‘sustainable’.
The trick is to reframe the conversation around sustainability, transforming the narrative into one of inspiration - away from the paralysis inducing culture of fear. We should be celebrating the efforts companies and individuals are making across our industry, no matter how small the gains may be, because this in turn inspires further efforts, drives deeper innovation, encourages greater creativity and promotes bolder ambition. Furthermore, it allows us to see sustainability as a journey instead of a destination – a movement towards true regenerative development.
Sound good? Well, it’s not only good for the environment, it’s good for business as well. A Nielsen study from 2019 found that 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. A YouGov study of over 9,000 consumers found they are 67% more likely to choose products and services from a business which is taking action on climate change. In 2018 alone, US$207 billion was spent on food and beverage products which present a ‘low impact’ marketing strategy.
A travel retail specific study, carried out by m1nd-set in September 2020, found that 84% of travellers think a greater focus on sustainability by manufacturers has a positive impact on their perception of their brands, 72% say a greater focus on sustainability will increase the likelihood of them buying a brand and 64% say they would pay more for an environmentally friendly product.
In travel retail, we are already surrounded by inspirational heroes. Take the visionary individuals at Mondelez WTR and Gebr Heinemann who were responsible for landing an industry first in Oslo – The Cocoa Life activation brought together products with sustainably sourced ingredients delivered via genuine sustainable design.
Cocoa Life is Mondelēz International’s global cocoa sustainability programme that aims at producing cocoa in a sustainable way. ‘Making it right’ means tackling the complex challenges which cocoa farmers face, including climate change, gender inequality, poverty and child labour.
When it came to taking this concept to the point of sale, the entire activation is made only from raw materials such as plywood and real preserved plants. Additionally, there is no plastic, no paint and no glue, making the entire promotion truly sustainable and 100% recyclable.
To really make a difference, sustainability requires transparency and collaboration. In openly sharing how we achieve these goals, we can help the whole industry move towards a more sustainable future faster and more efficiently.
That’s why Mondelez WTR and CircleSquare developed the Sustainability DNA Rating Scorecard. This rating system, shared freely amongst the TR community, considers four environmental impact criteria for each material used in the design implementation process: Recyclability, Reusability, Manufacture & Availability and End of life.
We live in a predominantly linear society with a linear economy. We take resources, turn them into things, use them, then discard them. This generates waste both in the ‘making’ and the ‘discarding’ phases and depletes our resources. But it wasn’t always this way. Before we mechanised the world, resources were considered precious, they were cherished, never discarded, and always reappropriated.
Circular Design is not a new concept, but the principles upon which it is based are words and expressions you will have heard many times before, like Recycle, Reuse, Repair, Upcycle, Refurbish, Longer Lasting, Reduce Waste, Fewer Materials.
What is new is the idea of Circular Design driving more sustainable brand activity. Patagonia is one brand which has embraced this concept, designing their products to last a lifetime (and ideally be passed on to someone else for a second lifetime). To support the concept, they launched Worn Wear, a repair service allowing consumers to bring along worn or torn garments to one of the brand pop-ups and have them repaired, or trade them in for credit on new items. To date they have extended the life of over 400,000 products, with old ones being repaired and sold on to a new owner. If the items are beyond repair, they break them down and recycle them into new ones. It is estimated this initiative cuts Patagonia’s combined carbon, waste and water footprint by 82%.
Nike is another brand to have embraced Circular Design through flagship initiative Grind, which aims to reuse and recycle material waste in their footwear and apparel supply chain, keeping it away from landfill and incinerators. The system takes manufacturing scrap, unused manufacturing materials and end-of-life footwear including rubber, foam, fibre leather and textiles, separates them and then either reuses them or further processes them into new materials. These new materials are then used to create sports fields, running tracks, playgrounds and flooring as well as used in their own footwear products. Through Grind, Nike’s ambition is to close the loop of their product lifecycle and work towards a zero carbon, zero waste future.
Whilst these are both inspirational examples, reaching true circular design, and with it a circular economy, we need to go much further. The idealised vision of a circular system is to create products which are constructed in a manufacturing process that creates zero waste, are used throughout the duration of their required life and then de-constructed into component parts to be reused.
This might seem like an unattainable dream today, but because brands like Patagonia and Nike have been bold enough to start these initiatives and inspire others to follow, we are now moving on a positive trajectory and before we know it, that dream may be within reaching distance.
Who will be the next big inspirations for travel retail? Maybe if we all chose to approach every product, every retail space and every activation we create by carefully considering what we make it from, how we make it, how we can extend its’ lifespan and what it could be used for afterwards, we will have the beginnings of our very own circular design system, making us more efficient, lowering our impact on the planet, saving us all money and inspiring the next generation to carry the torch into a better future.
Could the next inspirational figure in travel retail be you?
If you have been inspired to look beyond sustainability or if you would like to learn more about how our Sustainability DNA Scorecard can help your brand, get in touch with one of the CircleSquare team in your region and let’s work together to a better future for everyone.
Read the original story on The Moodie Davitt Report here.