Sustainability will continue to be important for organizations big and small in the year ahead. Consumers across industries are demanding that the brands they buy make strides in sustainability. As 2020 nears, here are three valuable sustainability trends to watch.
The circular economy will continue gathering steam
This year, it was hard to ignore headlines about landfills and the United States – at under five per-cent of the world’s population, the U.S. produces 20 per-cent of the world’s trash. Increasingly, consumers are getting fed up with the old “produce, use, discard” model.
Industry-wide initiatives aimed at boosting recycling and product re-use are increasingly emerging, in response to consumer demand for purpose-driven organizations that build sustainability into their products and services. The Ellen MacArthur foundation, for example, has organized a pledge whereby companies including DS Smith and H&M have partnered with governments to create more circular processes.
For our part, we’ve embraced a closed-loop manufacturing process, using post-consumer recycled content from the “urban forest,” for new paper products that are still recyclable. Rolland has also had success investing in circular innovations, such as biogas energy and water treatment systems that reuse water to minimize waste.
Measurement, in your business and within the businesses of the partners you work with, is critical to achieving circularity. For example, we conducted a Life Cycle Assessment to measure our environmental impact and help our customers better understand how we incorporate sustainability into every part of our process.
Gen Z will continue to demand action
As the October demonstrations show, young consumers are demanding change and driving much of the conversation around sustainability – and holding brands accountable. A McKinsey study found that 90 per-cent of gen Z expects brands to take a responsible approach to environmental and social issues.
This mentality will continue to push brands to innovate and create higher standards for sustainable processes. Gen Z and millennials together account for around $350 billion in spending power in the U.S and gen Z alone will make up 40 per-cent of global consumers by 2020.
Companies are already responding to this demand with action. Some of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies are rethinking how they package products to incorporate post-consumer materials. This includes Nestle recently launching new recyclable paper wrappers for its YES! snack bars, among others.
Technology is transforming supply chain management
Pressure from consumers and regulators is also creating demand for greater supply chain transparency. Because of that, new technology is emerging to help companies shift to leaner, but also more responsible, supply chains.
IBM, for example, recently launched IBM Food Trust. It uses blockchain technology to create shared records of food system data, to create more transparency among all parts of the supply chain. Along with being more efficient, it also aims to improve food safety and help brands build trust with consumers. Nestle, Unilever and Walmart, among others, have all signed on to the platform already.
With a new year around the corner, it’s a great time to reflect on how businesses can make a positive societal impact for the future. As you set new objectives and decide which initiatives and partnerships to invest in, remember that the demand for sustainability isn’t slowing down any time soon and that responsible product sourcing could be a means of competitive advantage in 2020.