By now, most people understand the need to live sustainably. A look back on 2019 shows a raft of headlines on the subject whether it be plastic in our oceans, deforestation of the planet to produce palm oil or cocoa or the protest marches of the younger generations led by Greta Thunberg. Consumer data shows that 47% of 25-34 year olds are now choosing to shop with more ethical and sustainable businesses. The figure for all consumers is already at 30%. Asda have indicated that the most letters their CEO gets is requests to remove plastic from packaging and China are looking at legislation to ban all single use plastics – bags, straws and bottles.
The business case would also seem to be clear since one of the world’ leading business consultancy groups has studied the numbers and indicated that companies that do good by the environment, their labour force, and communities, do well financially.” Doing good is good for business”.
So what does this mean for many smaller businesses that don’t have huge sustainability teams driving through massive change at HQ and into supply chains? So, however small or large your business is you might want to concentrate on these four things.
- Work with suppliers who are passionate about sustainability and place it high up on their business agenda. Businesses who bring you products which don’t just meet the needs of your customers on quality and taste but are also packed in more sustainable packaging such as fully recyclable or home compostable or biodegradable. Or even re-useable packaging! You will be supporting the right suppliers, you will have the interests of your customers at heart and your business will benefit. Ask your suppliers about their future plans on sustainability and build it into the business conversation…even on Christmas lines! Ikea have recently starting working with a packaging supplier called Ecovative Design who have developed a packaging material that binds agricultural products with myselium, the molecular building blocks of mushrooms! The Guardian newspaper announced last year it would be changing its outer plastic wrapping for its newspapers to an alternative malleable film made of potato starch that can be composted. Bloom Everlasting Chocolate infuses its biodegradable packaging with seeds that sprout the same plants used to make their natural flavorings: rose, orange and mint. With the helpful instructional guide that comes with each bar of chocolate, the product can become your next DIY gardening project!
- Work with suppliers who also care about the big issues on sustainable ingredient sourcing especially on palm oil, cocoa and paper. These are the big 3! More and more companies are prepared to invest in products which either use sustainable palm oil or sustainably sourced cocoa or FSC (Forestry Stewardship Acreditation) paper and card. Always challenge your suppliers on how they are constructing their products and how they are sourcing their key ingredients.
- Show your customers in turn that you are choosing such products and highlight them or showcase them and their benefits. Why should it just be Waitrose or M&S who cover their walls with huge visuals showing how they are sourcing sustainably of what their targets are on plastic reduction. Engage your customers with your vision to be committed to sustainability…many farm shops have been doing this for years in a more discrete way but there are still too many deli’s and independents whose sole focus is still just on taste and quality and not enough yet on the sustainability stories of the products.
- The final area is managing waste. In a world today where recycling and upcycling is a rapidly increasing trend. Nike recently stepped up to the challenge of upcycling materials from the waste stream including lids, milk cartons and orange juice containers. It’s a durable design that can also be used as a backpack. The time is right to challenge suppliers on how they are delivering into you and what options do their products give consumers for upcycling whether that be into plant pots, craft items, play equipment for kids etc.
If 2019 was the year of the big step forward for veganism in the food industry, then 2020 must surely be the big step up on sustainability. Those retailers, whatever their size, that treat sustainability as a core strategy for both keeping and gaining more customers, will continue to prove the point that “Doing good is good for business”.
Each year we look to introduce new innovative products and are also working hard on a number of initiatives that reduce the amount of packaging we waste and make sure it is recyclable. On particular SKU’s we have successfully reduced packaging weight by up to 40% and have also converted packages to home compostable and recyclable formats. See our new Personalised range, Treat Co sweet bags and Fosters cake packaging, to name just some.
Last year saw the Fosters Cake range get freshly revamped into beautifully designed, eye-catching, recyclable skillets. We are now taking it a step further by making the film home compostable as well.