From drinking straws to toothbrushes, consumers prioritize sustainable products. According to a study, between 2013 and 2018, 50% of the growth in consumer packaged goods came from sustainability-marketed products. And a 2019 poll saw 47% of consumers would avoid brands that violated their values.
In response, more companies have improved and are continuously improving their sustainability commitments—a practice that’s good for business and the planet.
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Being environmentally friendly helps brands
In 2018, Forbes reported that 88% of consumers want to buy from brands that make a difference. While broad awareness about sustainability exists, customers need to be educated about what makes a product sustainable and the role they play in ensuring its sustainability.
Companies can step in with clear, honest product packaging to promote their sustainability efforts and ensure responsible end-of-life disposal. In fact, clear end-of-life labels bolster consumer confidence. Consumers trust companies that tell the whole story, even when a package is not recyclable.
Material choice matters
When it comes to sustainable products, people consider material makeup. One of the most effective ways to shift to sustainable production? Use recycled materials where possible and consider a product or material’s end-of-life disposal.
Recycling generally means less overall waste, and choosing recycled or recyclable materials has an upstream effect beyond keeping material out of landfills. For example, according to Georgetown University, “recycling one ton of paper can save 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space and 4,000 kilowatts of energy—enough to power the average home for six months.” It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent.
Tech companies have responded to the call for increased sustainability by amping up efforts to address e-waste. In 2015, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned of an oncoming “tsunami” of hazardous e-waste. By 2018 Apple, already produced 7.8 million refurbished phones and diverted around 48,000 metric tons of electronic waste from landfills. A year later, the tech giant quadrupled access points to customer recycling and opened an in-house Material Recovery Lab dedicated to future recycling capabilities.
Educate your customers about the proper disposal of your products
Whether you’re Apple or a much smaller business, a successful recycling program means streamlining things for the consumer. Avoid plastics, or use those most easily recycled, unmixed with other materials. If your packaging has to include mixed materials, make it easy to separate and show customers how to dispose of each part. Not everything labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” can be tossed in a forest or composted at home, so be as specific as possible. Even including “not recyclable” on the label will prevent consumers from mixing products into the wrong stream, resulting in less contamination at the recycling center.
Sustainability commitments build trust
To reap the business benefits of sustainability, companies need to make a genuine effort and market those efforts. Take fashion—an industry notorious for poor sustainability practices—as an example. Brands that make sustainability part of their mission, then find unique ways to involve customers, stand out—two examples: Patagonia’s environmental activism and Reformation’s annual sustainability reports.
Displaying a clear commitment to sustainable practices in your packaging, labels, and actions means customers will come to trust your intentions and reliably support your business. By expanding awareness of responsible production and consumption, we can make a real impact on the greater good of society and the environment.