Once up on a time the ‘Blue Peter effect’ was one the most visible articulations of sustainable living (that and the Keep Britain Tidy logo). Resourcefulness, thrift, re-use, repair and ‘making’ rather than ‘buying’. It was a gentle yet highly persuasive way to get children to influence broader adult behaviours. Mostly through the nagging and demands for unused cereal boxes, loo rolls, washing up bottles and the like – you know how persuasive an 8 year old can be when they want something!
Fast forward to 2017, and Blue Peter was replaced by the shock and awe of Blue Planet. The impact of footage of turtles surrounded by discarded plastic captured the imagination of today’s society. But it also acted as the focal point for a much larger call for action across the globe to prioritise sustainability in order to protect the future of the planet.
Increased awareness of global warming and its impact had already led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement late in 2015. At a more parochial level, the commitment of UK supermarkets, pioneered by Iceland in 2018, to remove single use plastic packaging served to raise the status of sustainability in the public mind.
Businesses and organisations have reflected this changing mood by elevating the importance of behaving as responsible citizens within their corporate values. Many have written CSR policies into their strategies – what is good for society is increasingly seen as being good for shareholder value too.
But for many companies, actually delivering against this vision presents a real challenge. Shifting from a focus on product quality, or maximising consumer experience, or providing the lowest-cost solution, into delivering what is best for the environment often isn’t straightforward.
Practical, workable solutions need a combination of things;
1. A Clear Vision
Is sustainability going to be the driving principle for your whole business? To do this you’ll need to make sure you understand all the implications of this, and that everyone in the organisation is on board too.
Or are you just going to do what you can to minimise your environmental impact without disrupting or altering your main business focus? That’s absolutely fine, but if you take this approach then don’t try to overclaim, especially if other aspects of your offering are less sustainably sound.
2. Understand Your Customers’ Priorities
Up to date insight into what your customers want or expect from you in this area is vital – consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and demanding of the brands, products and services that they buy. They are better able to source information about how products are sourced, farmed and produced. Social media now means that this intelligence can also be spread quickly and effectively.
It’s not always obvious as to where consumers’ real priorities lie, so understanding which aspects of your offering they find most compelling, and how you can best match their expectations is vital. Working out how to communicate your messaging in this area so that it connects with your customers is also key.
3. Find The Right Solution
Sometimes this is about simply knowing the right questions to ask, and how to ask them. But if you’ve never had to address issues such as how best to remove plastic ties from your packaging the answer might not be as simple or obvious as it should be.
Knowing the questions you need to ask will be much more straightforward if you’ve set your vision and have your customer insights sorted out.
4. Talk To An Expert
Despite what some politicians have asserted in recent years, expertise is a really valuable attribute, particularly when facing a challenge that goes beyond the core skills held within the business.
The Brand Nursery are experts at helping brands to grow in a sustainable way – we’ve worked with organisations ranging from Certas Energy to Silver Cross to General Electric to identify the best way to deliver against their sustainability objectives. We’ve identified smart solutions to make packaging more environmentally friendly, and put together communications messaging that tells how new more sustainable offerings are being introduced in an engaging, impactful way.
We’ve delivered tailored research programmes to understand consumer behaviours and priorities around a range of recycling and environmental issues.
So, if you are at the point where you need to build greater sustainability into the future of your organisation, but not sure of the best way to do this, we’re here to help.
Words by Chris Blythe