Consumers often see sustainability as confusing and don’t understand that the term “environmentally friendly” indicates that a product has a smaller environmental impact than similar products. How can companies engage consumers and encourage them to a sustainable lifestyle, grow demand for more sustainable products and create business value?
Quality, durability and relationships
Even though a product is labelled green it doesn’t necessarily help us identifying products that are genuinely environmentally friendly. Large fast fashion brands are talking about sustainability and some have started to produce collections made in sustainable and recycled fabrics and encourage garment recycling. This has been criticized as green washing. Distracting from the harms the company does when producing giant piles of cheap clothes every year, which puts tremendous strain on the environment and high quantity of it ends as a landfill waste.
The whole consumption trend and habits aren’t supporting environmental protection. The pressure to produce fashion quickly has developed into a system of high inventory turnover, and that’s where the trouble comes in. We used to have two to four fashion seasons every year. Now, fast fashion brands produce 50 to 100 micro seasons a year, increasing our need to buy new things constantly, and that’s changing the way the fashion industry works. We’re buying 400 percent more clothes than we bought just 20 years ago.
If fast fashion would be removed from the equation it’s more likely we would have more companies producing higher quality, low quantity products that would last longer and create more value. Companies should focus on messages about quality, durability and relationships. Talking about how consumers purchase products, how to conserve energy, what products we choose to buy and tell stories that connect.
Make sustainability desirable
Consumers often feel that they can’t always choose more sustainable lifestyle options because those options aren’t available, and those products and services that are more sustainable are often seen as more expensive and of poorer quality. Adopting sustainable behaviors can be hard but companies can have a positive influence.
Companies should integrate sustainability into research and development, create a platform for collaboration with consumers and activate employees as advocates for sustainability. Using language that consumers are more familiar with and offer sustainable choices that are more relevant to their lives and aspirations. Giving consumers specific examples on how to easily change small, everyday actions that will benefit the environment can be compelling and be an effective trigger for a new behavior. However, sustainability messaging with “no,” “stop” and “don’t” is preachy. The last thing we can bear is a lecture on how wasteful we are and how our actions are killing the planet. Companies should focus on making sustainability exciting and future oriented. We want to imagine the world of tomorrow in a positive way. In order to engage, to excite and to get people enthusiastically on board with the sustainability agenda, we need to change the language of “don’t” to a language of progress. Working to build a language of sustainability that is exciting, futuristic, luxurious and most importantly, catchy is for sure more progressive way to promote sustainability.
Consumers might be willing to shift to more sustainable models of consumption if they are encouraged to re-imagine what personal success and status look like. Using campaigns that move people towards a more sustainable aspirational lifestyle and let them feel part of a brand community and spread the word about their product experiences can increase brand loyalty.
Celebrity role models can have a major influence on us and help make sustainability cool. Consumers are often eager to collaborate with companies to build new products and services and test products from trusted brands. By collaborating with consumers, companies can increase engagement and drive scalable change and long term business opportunities. If companies donate to become more sustainable they also strengthen the consumer case for sustainability.
Product packaging is a waste
Environmental sustainability and business don’t always go hand in hand, especially when it comes to product packaging. Some of the most common household packages – including potato chip bags, pizza boxes and toothpaste tubes – often aren’t recyclable. For companies hoping to woo sustainability-minded customers, this can be a real problem. Packaging is the first thing that consumers see, and it influences their buying decision. Product packaging and disposable bags are however just a waste. What you really want is what’s inside. Another option is compostable, biodegradable packaging. If companies integrate sustainability into their whole product cycle and educate their consumers, they engage consumers to choose better. Acknowledge that there’s always room for improvement and giving customers a chance to give feedback is also an opportunity for consumer collaboration.
It's time to change the conversation on sustainability from being about "don'ts" to being about quality, durability and relationships. Sustainability itself is crucial to the future of our planet. The message should be positive and be about buying yourself nicer things you want to keep forever and discover incredible products by reading stories of craftsmanship and quality.
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