A deep dive into consumer sustainability trends 2021.
The events of 2020 accelerated consumer sustainability trends that had already been starting to emerge across many different markets.
Despite being one of the most unpredictable years ever, it helped create greater public awareness of sustainability and deepen consumer understanding of the impact we’re having on the earth.
WHAT CONSUMER SUSTAINABILITY TRENDS CAN WE EXPECT IN 2021?
At a glance:
- A holistic approach to wellness
- Regeneration will be the new expectation
- ReCommerce on the rise
- A time for activism
- Space restraints spark a sharing economy boom
- Shoppers stay local
- Carbon labelling goes mainstream
- Brands face the burden of proof
JUMP TO: what do these trends mean for ethical and sustainable brands in 2021?
In this in-depth review of the sustainability market, ethical marketing strategist and sustainability writer Sian Conway takes a deep dive into the consumer sustainability trends affecting retail, business and behaviour in 2021.
2020 SET THE SCENE FOR IMPROVED SUSTAINABILITY
2020 paved the way for the environmental movement to gain more traction and for several key sustainability trends to present themselves in both consumer behaviour and business practices in 2021 and beyond.
The business case for sustainability has become stronger over the past 12 months, and there is a real sense that we need to take action now to change the world for the better as the pandemic recovery begins.
Covid-19 significantly changed consumer behaviour in 2020, but it wasn’t the only influencing factor driving greater environmental awareness.
The year began with unusually intense bushfires in Australia which made international headlines, as fires burnt an estimated 18.6 million hectares over three months.
Nearly three billion terrestrial vertebrates – the vast majority being reptiles – were affected, and some endangered species were believed to be driven to extinction. At its peak, air quality dropped to hazardous levels in some areas.
By the end of the year, fires had burned across tens of millions of hectares of forest in Russia’s Far East and Siberia, the Amazon, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Western US.
The Great Barrier Reef experienced its third bleaching event in five years, Arctic sea ice reduced to its second lowest level since 1979, and in Brazil, President Bolsonaro pushed forward with several large infrastructure projects despite warnings that the Amazon is rapidly approaching a rainforest-to-savanna tipping point.
David Attenborough released his highly anticipated ‘witness statement’ – a documentary and book called ‘A Life On Our Planet’ showing the shocking impact that human activity has had on the natural world within his lifetime.
Although the film was met with criticism for its messaging around overpopulation (a problematic argument, often with racist undertones), it acted as a shocking and provocative wake up call for many, as viewers took to social media to share the steps they would be taking to reduce their carbon footprint.
And, thankfully, 2020 wasn’t all doom and gloom.
American presidential candidate Joe Biden vowed to make climate action a top priority in his agenda, which would reverse many of the Trump administration’s harmful policies – starting with putting America back into the Paris Climate Agreement, which will now take place in January 2021 following his win.
Climate was given more air time in the election debates than ever before (although in the first debate the moderator still presented it as theory rather than fact, asking Trump if he “believed” in climate change).
But 8 in 10 American citizens agreed in polls that climate change is fuelled by human activity, and it was certainly a front of mind issue for voters.
Around the world, governments and leaders began to face increasing public pressure to take more decisive climate action.
Although COP26, the global leader’s climate change conference, was postponed to November 2021 due to the pandemic, sustainability and climate change have never been so much in the public and political eye.
So with the pandemic raging on as we enter the new year, and climate action becoming a more urgent priority than ever, where does that leave consumers?
According to a new report by Garnier, 73% of UK consumers want to be more sustainable in 2021.
Of those who said that the last year has made them think differently about their behaviours, almost half agreed that 2020 was a “wake up call” to protect the environment.
Notably, 42% of over 55-year-olds surveyed said the reason they were finding it easier to go green this year was that they now felt more knowledgeable.
This increased consumer demand for sustainability is being met by more action from businesses too.
HSBC’s ‘Made For The Future’ report shows that almost half of UK companies are planning to increase their environment-related spending by Summer 2021 – focusing particularly on improving manufacturing, internal practices and updating buildings and equipment.
Operational efficiency, changing regulations and keeping up with competitors were cited as the three biggest reasons behind this sustainability push.
96% of businesses included in the research said that they are feeling increasing pressure to become more sustainable, and 86% expect their sales to grow over the next year from a greater focus on sustainability.
WITH INCREASED CONSUMER AWARENESS OF SUSTAINABILITY, AND A RENEWED SENSE OF COMMITMENT TO GOING GREEN, WHAT SUSTAINABILITY TRENDS CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE IN 2021?
A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO WELLNESS
80% of consumers across the globe plan to eat and drink more healthily in 2021,and 57% of European consumers regularly research different ways to improve their health. Unsurprisingly, 43% of global consumers are seeking ingredients that boost immunity.
Covid-19 threw health into the global spotlight and for the first time everyone shared the same priority.
But beyond concern about catching and transmitting the virus, the pandemic also threw other elements of our health into focus – particularly around work/life balance as most people began working from home, screen time increased as everything pivoted online and mental health concerns were thrown into the spotlight as we battled isolation, stress and the uncertainty that 2020 brought with it.
In 25 countries around the world, millennials (now the dominant workforce and spending power) are working longer hours for less money, with 73% reporting working more than 40 hours per week.
This ‘always-on’ work mentality is leading to high levels of burnout, increasing rates of depression and heightened anxiety. Research shows that globally, 66% of consumers are interested in products that improve sleep quality and 58% are seeking products that reduce stress.
As a zoonotic disease, Covid-19 also made us more closely aware of the connection between our health and the health of the natural world – and how easily threats to one can be passed to the other.
Given these factors as a backdrop, it’s likely that we’ll see holistic wellness become more popular in 2021 – as consumers prioritise their health and look for meaningful solutions to these challenges.
This seems to be supported by new research published in IBM’s Food Sustainability Survey in December 2020, which found greater awareness of food and nutrition to be the most compelling motivator for consumers to buy more sustainable food – rising by 3% from the 2019 survey.
Given a rise in health consciousness, clean beauty is expected to be even more popular this year.
Pinterest’s trends report shows a 110% increase in searches year on year for “homemade skin care” and four times more interest in ‘how to get glowing skin naturally’ as people ditch the caked-on makeup look in favour of clean products, natural ingredients and a more minimalist approach.
Interestingly though, sales of personal care products plummeted during lockdown last year. Cosmetics was the fastest-falling category in grocery, down £138m as British consumers spent £340m less on personal care items such as deodorants, toothbrushes and razors. Experts are attributing this to reduced interactions and events, and it comes in sharp contrast to a rise in sales of home cleaning products (a category which grew by a combined £189m as we all began spending more time at home).
Personal care brands can reignite their sales by tapping into renewed consumer interest in natural approaches and a desire for self care, by creating marketing campaigns that emphasise the wellbeing benefits of looking after your physical appearance.
In other areas of wellbeing, the trend towards plant-based diets isn’t slowing down any time soon, and this is a good opportunity to begin conversations about toxic ingredients in other areas – such as our clothes, and how they are harming both our health and the planet.
People may also begin to look beyond capitalism in the wellness space this year – seeking greater sources of wellbeing and better balance beyond their next purchase.
Whereas in previous years the sector has been dominated by detoxes, fad diets and self-care focused products, people may now be looking for more holistic solutions and taking a more radical, deeper approach to looking after themselves and their physical and mental health, with an awareness of the impact this has on nature too.
There may also be a renewed interest in both mainstream and alternative spiritual practices and wellness rituals.
There’s been a 100% increase in searches year over year for ‘protection crystals’ and 105% increase in searches for ‘manifestation techniques’. One study found that Google searches for “prayer” spiked during the pandemic, and social psychologists have found that collective traumas like Covid-19 lead consumers to look for sources of greater meaning in their life.
For brands in the sustainability space, health and wellness provide a new lens through which to have conversations about the environment – engaging new audiences who haven’t previously been interested in the ‘eco-friendly’ angle.
Brands selling products in the wellness space will need to focus on deepening relationships with their customers and adding value to their self-care routines (beyond nice Instagram photos of bubble baths and motivational quotes). They should be prepared to have more open, vulnerable conversations and address real issues around mental health, loneliness and spirituality in genuine and authentic ways.
Brand owners can demonstrate their authenticity by modelling healthy self-care for their audiences. It’s time for a move away from the always-on culture of social media and the pursuit of shallow audience growth to instead prioritise rest, relaxation and authentic connection.
This will be a year for redefining self-care and finding new ways to connect with ourselves, each other and nature. Expect consumers to be more in tune with their emotional mental, physical and spiritual needs – and to be looking for long term, meaningful solutions instead of quick fixes.
REGENERATION WILL BE THE NEW EXPECTATION
In September 2020, 43% of consumers in 7 countries said that they’re concerned about increased waste due to Covid-19.
Although necessary, the widespread use of PPE saw a return to single-use plastic, undermining a lot of the public awareness and progress that had been made since Blue Planet II first threw the issue into focus in 2017.
From 1 January 2021, China has banned all waste imports. The country has been importing solid waste since the 1980s, often leading to pollution when materials couldn’t be recycled or disposed of correctly. But the government began closing the doors to imports in 2018, causing a backlog in exporting countries.
Now that the ban is fully in place, many countries are going to be forced to find new ways to deal with their overflowing landfills, which could see greater pressure and eventually even legislation start to influence manufacturers, corporations and maybe even household collections.
Recycling remains confusing for consumers, and there is a lack of trust around product labelling and where it actually ends up.
As consumers grow increasingly tired of carrying the burden of responsibility when it comes to recycling, waste management and ‘doing the right thing’ when they shop – it’s likely that we will see them push this back to brands in 2021 and begin to demand that they take sustainability further – moving to regenerative solutions instead.
We’ve already seen supermarkets, household cleaning products and beauty brands trial refillable packaging in a move towards zero waste, and it’s likely that demand for this will increase in 2021.
The Circular Economy model provides an opportunity to ‘design waste out’, and we can expect this to become more mainstream across a wide range of industries.
The European Commission published a Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020 with a range of goals and plans to adopt new legislation.
Producers of electronics in the EU can expect that they will have the obligation to repair products they have placed on the market under a new “right to repair” which is set to be established in 2021.
During the pandemic, online retail boomed – bringing with it a surge in plastic and cardboard packaging. The European Commission is revising the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, with a goal that all packaging on the EU market will be reusable or recyclable by 2030. Companies can expect restrictions on the use of some materials and potentially new labelling restrictions to ease the separation of packaging waste.
In the fashion industry, designers are increasingly looking to deadstock (excess fabric from other makers, which usually goes unused and ends up in landfill) to provide material for new clothes.
In November 2020 the EU backed the New Cotton Project – a new circular model for commercial garment production which will roll out over the next 3 years.
As 2021 unfolds, we’re likely to see greater consumer pushback on brands, as they expect the conversation to move from sustainability to regeneration.
Brands should expect to take more responsibility for reducing waste and designing it out of the manufacturing process, and legislation will soon follow to enforce this.
Now is the time to reconsider your packaging and the end-of-life process for your products – responsibility can no longer be left to the end user. Early adopters or regenerative solutions will be rewarded with customer loyalty.
RECOMMERCE ON THE RISE
Research predicts that the second-hand market (ReCommerce) will double within the next five years. The pandemic may have even accelerated this further, with some reports suggesting a 39% annual growth rate. Prior to the pandemic, resale was already growing 25% faster than the broad retail sector.
Resale presents a more affordable option, which is particularly appealing to Gen Z consumers. However, with some consumers increasingly motivated by sustainability over price, there will also be a boom in the sale of second-hand luxury items as part of this growing movement.
88% of consumers surveyed during the pandemic said they have adopted a new thrifting hobby, and 79% plan to cut their apparel budget in the next 12 months – making ReCommerce an appealing option for those that still want to buy fashion items.
In 2019, big brands including Burberry and H&M introduced rental and ReCommerce models.
66% of retail executives in the fashion industry are interested in testing resale for the environmental benefits.
Now is a good time for brands – particularly in the fashion industry – to consider whether their customers would purchase used items, and how they could embed ReCommerce into their platform to adapt to this growing trend as consumption patterns continue to shift.
A TIME FOR ACTIVISM
Although lots of activism was forced to move online in 2020 due to the pandemic, citizens became more vocal about social justice.
In the environmental space, we saw increased attention paid to environmental racism, following the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests across the USA and UK.
In the UK, MP David Lammy gave a TED talk calling for racial justice to be a key part of the fight for environmental justice. Eco-communicator Leah Thomaslaunched the Intersectional Environmentalist platform, triggering a movement that challenges the white-washed environmental narrative and amplifies silenced voices.
Big name brands took a stand on social media in the wake of George Floyd’s murder – but many were outed for “purpose washing” as it was revealed that their internal company practices didn’t match their public statements on social media.
Other causes fell victim to corporate purpose washing throughout 2020 too.
Starbucks faced scandal when they launched a campaign to raise at least £100,000 for the trans youth charity Mermaids by selling mermaid tail biscuits in store. But the company came under criticism when it was called out by past and present employees, accusing it of not living up to its promise of being trans inclusive.
With several high profile incidents of purpose washing, and consumer audiences demanding more from the brands they buy from (According to Deloitte, purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors), 2021 is likely to see an increase in brand activism, to meet customer expectations.
However, savvy consumers will no longer tolerate PR stunts, lip service or one-off donations. Consumers today are well researched and not afraid to dig deep and hold brands to account.
Businesses are expected to engage in social and environmental agendas – Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2020 finds that 81% of consumers say they expect brands to do the right thing – and consumers aren’t afraid to call out bad practices, publicly shame companies that get it wrong and boycott where needed.
June and July 2020 saw a threefold increase in the volume of social media content calling for companies to be boycotted.
The reasons were varied – from supermarkets refusing to enforce mask-wearing, to brands angering some consumers by supporting Black Live Matter, consumers on both sides of the political spectrum took to social media to air their views and choose brands that align with their worldview.
This new marketing landscape may strike fear into even the most confident brands – after all, a PR scandal can be difficult (and expensive to come back from) – but not engaging is not an option.
Brands may be tempted to play it safe by keeping themselves out of the conversation, but consumers are unlikely to tolerate inaction.
Gone are the days of appealing to everyone. Instead of mass market appeal, brands should be considering who they are for and what they stand for.
It’s impossible to keep everyone happy, but by doubling down on your values and embedding these at every level, you can build a loyal following of customers that will stick with you for the long haul.
Authenticity will be key in 2021. Brands should spend more time and resources on improving their internal practices to match the values they share with their customers, and avoid PR stunts without transparency.
They need to be ready to defend their position and answer sometimes difficult questions.
Consumers will expect more bravery from brands this year, in occupying more controversial positions because they see this as a fundamental part of building relationships with customers and serving society.
Cause marketing can be a really effective way of promoting your brand, but this needs to be approached carefully, strategically, once the cause is fully embedded in the way the business operates.
SPACE RESTRAINTS SPARK A SHARING ECONOMY BOOM
With many people spending much more time at home in 2020, the need to maximise our space became a priority.
Urbanisation has shrunk available space in the home environment for many in recent decades, and the desire for green space was highlighted when ‘stay at home’ orders were enforced during lockdown and those without gardens struggled.
Lockdown also led to increased concerns around air quality at home, and a surge in sales of both high and low tech solutions – from at-home air purifiers to plant subscription boxes.
As many companies now intend to keep their working from home policies in place after the pandemic, people are now turning their attention to the long-term use of their home environment as both an office, school and leisure space.
A desire for impressive Zoom backgrounds and a need to create office space at home will continue to have an influence on interior design trends and homeware sales this year, but it’s likely that the desire for solutions to maximise space will extend further too – having an influence on consumer behaviour as a whole.
We’re likely to see people decluttering to create more space – building on the ‘Marie Kondo’ effect of recent years.
Sustainably-minded consumers are already thoughtful about their purchases, but we’re likely to see a surge in more minimalist approaches to consumption, driven by a desire to carefully consider use of space and items brought into the home, rather than the environmental impact of excess waste.
In 2020, fashion rental platforms experienced a boom as people sought their fashion fix in new ways which avoided filling their already overflowing wardrobes.
Established platforms saw a rapid increase in new users (By Rotation reported a 600% increase in rentals since the beginning of November, and MyWardrobeHQ said rentals were up by 30%), and big retailers like Selfridges moved into the rental and resale market too.
Although many retailers are prioritising the reduced environmental impact of rental in their marketing messaging to appeal to eco-friendly audiences, this isn’t the only reason behind the boom.
A desire to maximise space and keep up with the latest fashion trends is also a key factor. And an increasing desire for luxury goods across all sectors, including fashion, is likely to spur the growth of the luxury fashion rental market further in 2021 – as people seek designer labels at affordable price tags.
(Business of Fashion explored how consumers turn to luxury purchases at times of threat in this interesting podcast about buying behaviour and how the pandemic has had an influence on the way we shop).
The acceleration of technology has spurred growth in the sharing economy across many sectors in recent years, and as we find new ways to maximise space and divide resources across growing global populations, it’s likely that this will continue to boom.
According to PwC, the sharing economy is set to reach $335 billion by 2025.
Companies using traditional operating models are expected to grow by 39.6% from 2013 to 2025, whereas those in the sharing economy (including home sharing, ride sharing, lending and streaming) will increase by a predicted 2133%!
28% of consumers worldwide are already willing to share their electronics. During the third Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, we saw this in action as social media users worked together to help families access laptops and tablets for homeschooling – and there are already apps in place to enable this kind of community lending.
Car sharing, food waste reduction apps, furniture and power tools are all areas where consumers are beginning to embrace the sharing economy and it’s likely that we will see increased demand for sharing across different sectors in 2021.
As the pandemic has increased people’s desire to shop locally and support their community, we may see more local solutions – like more buy nothing groups, local Library of Things and even informal swapping of skills between community members to replace commerce in some circumstances.
SHOPPERS STAY LOCAL
32 million people (almost half the UK’s population) supported small and local businesses in Britain during lockdown in 2020 – a change in usual shopping habits for 44% of consumers.
Nearly two-thirds of the population (62%) reported that they plan to stay loyal to the local businesses that helped them during Covid-19, and 55% intend to consciously spend more money in local shops.
Convenience, quality and disapproval of the behaviour of bigger brands during lockdown were cited as the main reasons behind this shift.
Many independent retailers were forced to close as “non essential” businesses, while supermarkets remained open during lockdown. This move was heavily criticised as handing bigger retailers an unfair advantage (we helped support a campaign against this), and the press coverage around this may have helped garner support for smaller retailers from their local communities.
It’s likely that the desire to shop locally will continue into 2021, even as vaccines are rolled out and lockdown restrictions are lifted, with more people working from home long-term and reconnecting with their local communities.
Savvy indie retailers should be considering how they can bring the community benefits of shopping local into their marketing messages, and if they can stock local products to further emphasise the positive role they play.
Rosie Jacobs, Founder of Independent Oxford, emphasises the importance of shopping locally:
“It’s more important than ever to support our local businesses. Independents are at the heart of our communities, and add so much colour and character to our cities. Both lockdowns this year have highlighted how essential they are to the vibrancy and soul of our high streets, town centres and communities, and it’s vital that we support them through this difficult time.
Indies in Oxfordshire have provided free school meals, delivered essential supplies to vulnerable people, given food to NHS staff on the front line, and set up buy one give one schemes with local aid initiatives, to mention just a few of the ways independent businesses have shown how valuable they are.
Independents have the fleet of foot and local links that larger businesses don’t have, meaning they can react quickly, in the most impactful way. They are passionate about what they do, and care deeply about their neighbourhoods, buying local where possible, supporting their fellow indies and working with purpose to ensure they make a positive social and environmental impact. The future is bright for indies, as more people have realised how essential they are to our health and wellbeing, and the cohesion of our communities.”
CARBON LABELLING GOES MAINSTREAM
A 2020 survey found that two thirds of consumers support carbon labelling on products across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US.
A product carbon footprint label by The Carbon Trust was originally rolled out in the UK in 2007, but took a back seat after a major industry retreat from the concept.
However, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) revealed in December 2020 that the UK government plan to consult on mandatory labelling as part of a post-Brexit overhaul of packaging requirements in 2021, and many suppliers are now preparing themselves for the changes this could bring.
A number of suppliers have already begun rolling out carbon labels on their products already.
Unilever has committed to zero out all emissions from its own operations and those of its suppliers by 2039 and will be using carbon labelling on their 70,000 products to show how much greenhouse gas was emitted in the process of manufacturing and shipping them to consumers. This commitment makes them the most ambitious of any consumer goods company tackling carbon emissions so far.
Alt-milk brand Oatly began using carbon labels in 2019 and Quorn started including them on its most popular products in 2020 – driven by consumer demand and increasing pressure on organisations to meet more ambitious decarbonisation targets.
Marco Bertacca, Chief Executive of Quorn, predicts that carbon labelling will go on a similar journey to that made by nutrition information on foods – with consumers coming to expect hard data.
Companies will need to align on the methodology they use so that consumers can easily make direct comparisons, and many suppliers are calling for an EU-wide harmonised approach to ensure it doesn’t become a “jungle of all kinds of labels”.
The European Commission ran a consultation on this in Summer 2020, which could result in a legal framework.
Whether carbon labelling becomes mandatory or not, if major brands start to roll it out consumers will begin to expect it from other brands too.
This comes at a time when consumers are searching for greater transparency from brands around their sustainability claims and the targets they have set.
The move to carbon labelling could also spark greater pressure on brands to reduce their emissions rather than offset them.
Speaking to Bloomberg Green, Marc Engel, Unilever’s global head of supply chain, said “We could announce that we are carbon neutral today by just spending money on offsets, but we have deliberately decided not to do that…It’s a very big commitment, but we are clearly seeing that consumers want to know how the products they buy contribute to their own carbon footprint.”
BRANDS FACE THE BURDEN OF PROOF
Ethics and sustainability are increasingly important to today’s consumers, with cost no longer the deciding force for most.
Today’s shoppers are well-researched, and know their ethical and sustainable priorities. Brands must now work harder to gain their trust and confidence through transparency and traceability.
In 2020, The Knowledge is Power – Consumer Trust in Sustainability Report found that shoppers are increasingly doubtful of sustainability information provided by brands themselves.
Only 1 in 5 trust brand claims, an 83% would be more likely to trust a product’s sustainability claims if it had been verified by a third party.
33% of consumers say they would do their own research to determine the validity of a brand’s sustainability claims.
Brands can gain trust and add value by offering quicker, more convenient access to the detailed information consumers need to make their purchasing decisions – including ingredients lists, sourcing policies and sustainability impact.
But it is becoming increasingly important that brands seek third party accreditation to evidence their claims.
IBM’s Food Sustainability Survey found that Fair Trade is still the most selected label that would make UK and European consumers more likely to purchase a food item in a grocery store – but the past few years have seen big retailers and brands like Sainsbury’s and Cadbury’s move away from the Fair Trade certification in favour of their own in-house schemes. While they claim this allows them to be more comprehensive in the issues they tackle through the programme, it may also be seen as a cost savings exercise.
The time and monetary investment involved in achieving third party accreditations may present a barrier for many smaller brands, but research shows that it is worth it.
Research conducted by Ipsos MORI for the Changing Markets Foundation and Clean Clothes Campaign found that 60% of customers would spend up to 5% more on clothing if they had a guarantee that garment workers were paid a fair living wage.
With an increase in greenwashing and purpose washing – as brands spend more money on advertising and PR to look ethical and sustainable than to actually change their infrastructure – consumers are increasingly seeking proof that the businesses they buy from can back up their claims.
The Ecolabel Index now lists more than 435 labels in 197 countries, across 25 industry sectors.
In 2021, brands should be prioritising ways to evidence their sustainability claims, and trust should become a core KPI. It’s important to make information and evidence easy to access and quick to understand, but ensure that any sustainability claims are well-supported and third party verified.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE BRANDS IN 2021?
consumer sustainability trends 2021 – key takeaways:
Almost half of UK companies plan to increase environment-related spending by 2021, and 86% expect their sales to grow over the next year from this increased focus on sustainability.
Sustainable business practices are no longer niche. As they break into mainstream markets, brands will need to find new ways to compete, and to demonstrate their sustainable credentials. Broad claims about being green isn’t enough anymore.
Consumers are growing tired of carrying the burden of “doing the right thing” while corporations continue with “business as usual.”
Shoppers in 2021 expect brands to make bigger environmental commitments, demonstrate these with third party verification and communicate them transparently, making information accessible to inform quick purchasing decisions.
Brands can break out of the sustainability echo-chamber by looking at it through a new lens.
If your company has previously targeted environmentally-focused consumers and now wants to break into the mainstream, you can frame the same conversation with a different priority in order to reach new audiences.
The pandemic threw health and wellbeing into the global spotlight and consumers became increasingly aware of the connection between our health and the health of the planet – making health and wellbeing a compelling point of connection for brands to explore.
Brands need to take a stand.
Instead of aiming for mass market appeal, marketing should focus on creating deep connections with customers built around a genuine commitment to shared values. Consumers expect brands to be brave, speak out and “do the right thing” when it comes to social causes.
In 2021, brands shouldn’t be afraid to to accept they can’t make everyone happy, and to choose which side they want to stand on as they embed activism into their business practices – beyond the usual PR stunts.
The way we consume is changing, and brands should prepare to adapt.
Manufacturers should expect to take responsibility for their products at end-of-life as the circular economy continues to grow, and producers should be considering how they can design waste out. The second-hand market is set to experience up to a 39% annual growth rate, and brands should consider how they can embed this in their business model, as well as embracing sharing economy solutions (including lending, rental, streaming and subscriptions instead of ownership) to tap into a market that is set to reach $335 billion by 2025.
Quality and customer service is more important than ever.
In your marketing, hone in on what makes your product or service special, above and beyond your eco credentials. In today’s crowded market where consumers are always on, it’s essential to craft compelling sales messages that focus on how you solve problems for your customers, delivered with impeccable customer service to make your brand the stand out choice – because as sustainability goes mainstream, the fact you solve problems for the planet is now a given. In 2021, sustainability is an expectation, not a selling point.
Trust and transparency are the biggest priorities.
Consumers are more knowledgeable and well researched than ever, and they don’t trust the sustainability claims made by brands. Sustainable products must seek third party verification and embrace labelling that demonstrates evidence for their environmental commitments if they want to compete in this market.
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