Sustainability. It’s been the hot topic for the past 10 to 15 years, to a point of almost gimmickry. Two situations seem to occur most frequently:
Corporations make small, tactical changes that have more to do with their production or operational costs than a genuine concern for the environment, and communicate these as their ‘contribution to the solution.’ But that's where the contribution stops. Think of banks that allow you to receive your statements by email rather than post - what are they truly protecting here? The planet, or their margins?
On the other end of the spectrum are corporations that give themselves a long timeline of a decade or more to conduct a major structural re-organisation of their manufacturing process, investing in regenerative material sourcing, energy saving production processes, safe and healthy working conditions, preservation of the environment and local communities, waste management, post-usage recycling programmes, etc. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan comes to mind, as does Starbucks’s Sustainability Bond and Kering’s Sustainability Targets, all of which involved a systemic overhaul of the entire product innovation process in order to yield structural changes that will make a real difference in the future.
Shifting towards a more ‘consumer facing’ perspective, it goes without saying that brands need to up their sustainability game if they want to remain relevant in the decades to come. A recent JWT Intelligence report revealed that 88% of US/UK Millennials believe that brands need to ‘do more good’ rather than simply ‘less bad,’ and 75% actively research the behavior and policies of the brands they buy. Gen Z, too – soon to become the largest group of consumers in the world, making up an estimated 40% of the US, Europe and BRICS population by 2020 - are already well-versed social activists with a beady eye for falsified data and fraudulent ‘sustainability wave riders.’
Indeed, it is a two way street. While consumers are aware of their own impact on the environment - with 51% of young consumers (18-30) happy to pay a premium for sustainable brands – there is still very much a belief that brands need to spearhead this change, with 89% of Brazilian consumers for instance arguing that brands should be responsible for their own sustainability measures, rather than solely relying on the consumer to do their bit.
But to avoid re-hashing a topic that has been already received extensive coverage, we will stop here with the stats and recommendations and simply share a few examples of interesting and inspirational brands that are already at the forefront of this movement.
G Star Raw
Collecting and recycling plastic from oceans into jeans and hoodies
Repurposing confiscated fishing nets into a new line of trainers
Using old trainers to create bouncy rubber mats for kids’ playgrounds, in keeping with the brand’s ethos of encouraging people to be more active
CaRlsberg Fibre Bottle
Carlsberg has always been trying to leave as much impact as possible to the environment. The have recently generated a bottle made of the fibres used in the barley which is one of the main ingredients.
The main compotent of sunglasses these day are plastics. Shwood have seen this as a burden to the environement especially with fashion styles changing so much. They have created frames made from wood, moss, pinecones and feathers just to name a few.
Fog Point Vodka
Because of the location of California suffers from drought on a regular basis. Fog Point have teamed up with Hanger vodka and using netting have been able harness the mist that is so ambunded in San Francisco area and collect the water that is one of the main compontents in the manufacturing of vodka.
Decomposable or biodegradable packaging
Cellulose packaging algae
Gone Tomorrow have developed a form of secondary packaging that biodegrades within a few days. Used to encase products for transport from source to consumer, it naturally decomposes 72 hours after delivery
Ecovative Design have developed outer packaging that uses mushroom as the main component. Once used, it can be disposed of and will fully decompose with no harm to the environment
Genetically grown leather
Recent advances in science have shown that scientists are able to culture and grow skin from either bovine (cows) or human stem cells. This has an important medical application as well as huge potential in the fashion industry as an ethical, animal-friendly alternative to traditional leather
Of course, we fully acknowledge that responsibility for this type of sustainable innovation cannot lie solely with brands. As design industry specialists, we should be introducing our clients to new and groundbreaking materials and production techniques.
At Hornall Anderson, we believe that it takes everybody – brands, suppliers, consumers, design firms – collectively pulling together to find solutions to the very real problems facing the world today. That’s why our Innovation Process integrates sustainability into the core of everything that we do. So whether we’re talking about NPD or innovative packaging creation, we’re making sure that our work leaves behind transformational and tangible change.