18th Mar 2020
On Wednesday 11th March, Drapers the leading publication for retailers hosted its 2nd Sustainable Fashion Conference in London to bring together the most sustainable brands and retailers, progressive thinkers and pioneers to discuss what we can do to tackle the issues facing the industry through innovation and creativity. At the sold out event, 300-plus attendees heard from speakers from more than 40 brands, including M&S, Oxfam, Primark, ASOS, Aldo and Pentland Brands.
What was evident in all of the sessions was the growing urgency for brands to be more sustainable and optimism that brands will transition to a cleaner, greener future. This transition doesn’t come without action and there were two key pertinent messages reiterated throughout the day;
Transparency: Brands are still concerned about the potential back lash from hearing what positive steps they are taking however Steve Kenzie, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact Network shared that many brands are working closely with suppliers and achieving great things and sharing this success will help inspire others. The target has been set to achieve net zero by 2050 which is hugely ambitious, and nobody knows how to do it.
Greenwashing: Green is good for business: it means more money – but it means so much more now. Nicola Broadhurst partner at independent law firm Steven & Bolton explained that greenwashing was a term that was “coined to cover cynical attempts by businesses to present their products as environmentally friendly”. The Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) investigates 26,000 complaints each year, but “can’t fine or compel you to withdraw, but launch an adjudication”. Consumer trust is one of the biggest tangible benefits of accurate messaging and concluded: “Sustainability is here to stay. You can’t do nothing, so you have to do something.”
These messages were also reflected in our research report The Future of Packaging Report which was launched at the event.
One hundred senior retail and business professionals took part in the study which explored the trends and challenges faced by industry now and in the next decade. Our research showed that over half (53%) of companies think reducing environmental impact will be the most important factor defining packaging strategies in the next ten years. However, when asked which factors will influence packaging design and development in the next decade, more than half (59%) of respondents stated ‘cost’. It ranked in the top three most influential factors, alongside ‘branding/customer experience’ and ‘end of life options’, with little difference between how influential cost is today, compared to its perceived influence in ten years’ time.
This commoditised approach has limited the opportunity for the wider adoption of sustainable packaging solutions. The past few years have seen a gradual shift in this attitude, with forward-thinking companies looking at the far reaching efficiencies and benefits of sustainable packaging. An examples of a forward-thinking organisation is premium lifestyle brand Joules, who have looked beyond the bias of price during packaging procurement, realising packaging spend can equate to value in other areas such as brand loyalty, enabling closed-loop recycling and other fulfilment efficiencies. Learn more about the sustainable packaging solution adopted by Joules here
Primarily, companies want to deliver quality products and services to customers. Therefore, any changes must be commercially viable to maintain a successful business. By taking a collective approach with suppliers, and including all departments within their organisation to find ways of improving their packaging’s sustainable credentials, companies will find solutions that don’t cost the earth.
Packaging is proving a type of sustainability barometer for consumers and a powerful tool to effect sales and brand loyalty. Be confident with your consumers about the business’ rationale for chosen packaging styles and communicate this at every opportunity. If plastic is the most sustainable option and an informed choice has been made (and that goes for all material not just plastic), engage with the plastic/packaging debate. Clearly explain the benefits of the packaging style being used and address any concerns with end of life pack solutions by providing clear on-pack guidance.
Access the full report which features insights from industry leaders including DHL, Regatta and Joules by downloading it for free here