5 sustainability lessons for consumer brands this Gen Zer wants you to learn

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Changing market conditions are constantly raising new challenges and make it difficult for many brands to retain their relevance, especially with younger generations like mine. Making up an ever-larger part of society, Millennials and Gen Z (that’s me!) are purpose-driven consumers who are demanding more from brands in terms of their commitment to global matters. We are looking to the new icons of our generation – people like Greta Thunberg as well as brands like Patagonia to guide us forward. We are also more likely to choose sustainable products or brands that support a higher cause (66% in fact, according to this source). 

I see you, the world’s leading consumer goods companies recognizing the urgency and taking action and I want to commend you on your effort. For those who still have a thing or two to learn, I thought I’d put together a cheat sheet of actions that I feel every consumer goods company – big and small – should add to their own 2020 sustainability plan checklist.

Here are my top 5 sustainability takeaways that I think every consumer goods company needs to consider.  

1. Improve product materials and up-/recycling

Zoning in on product and packaging biodegradability, recyclability, use of post-consumer waste and recycled plastic, is likely the most visible and impactful measure any consumer goods brand can take. Procter & Gamble recently made a sustainable Head & Shoulders plastic bottle out of plastic that was picked up at various beaches all over France. 

Image result for head and shoulders beach bottle

Source: 2019 Procter & Gamble

PepsiCo, on the other hand, is “planning to replace its plastic bottles of Aquafina with aluminum cans at locations around the U.S.

2. Global initiatives and partnerships

Global initiatives and partnerships are also a key factor for many consumer goods companies. A good example would be Nestlé which announced a partnership with PureCycle Technologies with the goal to develop a revolutionary recycling method. Unilever, on the other hand, publicly threatened that they will sell off brands that hurt the planet or society, in essence forcing their brands to take serious note of the company’s shift. 

3. Reducing organization emissions through sustainable buildings

Another nod to Unilever: last year they finished the renovation of their U.S. headquarters in collaboration with EDGE Technologies. The building was transformed into “one of US East Coast’s most sustainable and technologically advanced buildings” and reduced its energy consumption by 40% while increasing its overall size by 13%. Another (easier) way to improve your carbon footprint is to source 100% renewable electricity like Procter & Gamble announced for Canada, USA and Western Europe this week.

Smarter transportation through logistical adjustments, using energy-efficient products in day-to-day business or avoiding the consumption of unnecessary resources are all additional ways that many big companies are also implementing in order to shift to greener practices. But who is going to manage all of these initiatives?

4. Strategic hiring

Hiring a hands-on executive sustainability manager is one strategy that every serious large corporation has already in check. Just look at Unilever, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Henkel for example. It’s never too late to join the party, Diageo (as recently as this year) has a newly-appointed chief sustainability officer.

Sustainability is so much more than just considering environmental protection. It also includes social aspects which leads me to the last key point: 

5. Social initiatives and commitments

The Kellogg Company is a leader amongst peers when it comes to their commitment to social and environmental initiatives. They not only fed over 375 million people through donations but also are trying to reduce food waste and switch to sustainable packaging

Source: 2018 Kellogg Company

There are many more sustainability strategies that companies employ, other than the ones mentioned here. For example, improvements in the company’s supply chain or employee clean-up initiatives, like the launch of Henkel North America’s #trashfighters.

Outro

If you’re willing to listen to me – an 18-year-old who sees your role as a corporate as one with a lot of responsibility, I would like to stress that it’s really not difficult to become more sustainable. The 5 points I’ve mentioned above aren’t the only ways you can become more sustainable. There’s so much more that can be done, and if you’re feeling stuck, you can always ask your consumer target group on our platform what impactful changes they envision for your future. I’m sure they have some great ideas! 😝

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About jovoto’s own sustainability initiatives

The jovoto team embraces our role in supporting and encouraging sustainability initiatives as a curator of innovation. So much so, as it is one of our core values, and we’ve taken to the streets on Fridays to support the #FridaysForFuture initiative. We also look critically at how we can make our operations greener. Little adjustments in our office supplies and optimizing our HQ’s energy efficiency to name a few. Our commitment is also reflected in our work with clients. On one side we support organizations like Greenpeace in their mission to bring about constructive change, Universities like Cumulus in their work to bring about a circular economy, and on the other side we work with corporates like Starbucks, Nespresso, and Henkel to help them on their own sustainability journeys. Let us know if you are in need of fresh inspiration on how to future-proof your business with new products, services, or packaging ideas – or a disruptive campaign idea to spread the word on what you’re doing behind the scenes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thami Chiluvane

Thami is a determined 18-year-old graduate with a passion for sports and music production. He currently is working at jovoto as an intern in the marketing department.

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