recent research from Kantar shows that many Aussies are making spending choices based on Sustainability. Here Kantar’s Head of Sustainable Transformation Practice APAC (PICTURED), Trezelene Chan, gives insight on what brands can do to become more sustainable.
We’re literally drowning in rubbish. Australians generated 75.8 mega-tonnes of total waste in 2020-21 – roughly the equivalent weight of 471 Sydney Opera Houses – yet Kantar’s Sustainability Index 2022 reveals that half of Australians are prepared to invest their time and money in companies that try to do good because we believe we can make a difference through sustainable choices. But we’re also now grappling with the cost-of-living crisis meaning sustainability product and service barriers linked to price and lack of information are holding us back.
And that number speak volumes. Seven in 10 Aussies believe that products that are better for the environment and society are more expensive.
But Australians do champion sustainability. Over half believe that buying sustainable products is a demonstration of who we are (52 per cent) but we do want our brands to demonstrate that trait too, notably by helping to solve overconsumption and prioritising waste reduction.
Yet, while most of us believe that brands have an important role to play in helping create a more sustainable world, many are also wary about the true intentions of these brands, particularly when sustainability is used to command a premium – a tough swallow in a cost-of-living crisis.
Your brand can act now to innovate to lead in the race to a reduced waste world
We must act now. On plastic waste alone, ABS statistics show that of the 2.5 million tonnes generated in 2018-2019, only nine per cent was sent for recycling while 84 per cent was sent to landfill – with households the largest contributors. If we don’t act, by 2050, globally there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans.
Our latest research reveals that brands have a powerful opportunity to innovate to support a waste free future. There are clear key actions to master now to take the lead in Australia’s sustainable transformation.
1. Design for success and focus on the ultimate outcome
If that is a net positive impact on the world, then incremental innovation on packaging is a positive step; however, it’s just the start. Be smart with product design to dramatically minimise household waste. You must design for the mainstream with minimal waste in your products and services. Its more than just a moral imperative – data from our global Who Cares Who Does 2022 study finds the opportunity in environmentally friendly packaged FMCG products alone stands at $991 billion.
The Kantar BrandZ Sustainability Index 2023, which combines a brand’s ESG performance (measured by MSCI) with consumer perceptions of how sustainable they are revealed that the top-rated Australian brands on the Index grew 25 per cent on average year-on-year compared to 15 per cent for the lower-performing group. Our global studies also reveal that consumers say they don’t buy products that use minimal packaging because they ‘are too expensive’, ‘don’t exist’ or ‘require us to compromise on quality’. What would inspire them to action? If brands used minimal packaging that deliver an even better experience, actively encourage change, and the purchase decision doesn’t require any compromise on quality.
2. Make it easy, meaningful and rewarding to shop sustainably
Brands have a role to play in helping people make more sustainable choices, so think about the value chain in totality. Embrace behaviour change principles and rethink processes for design and execution. By designing products and services that that make it easier to behave sustainably, you can bring more people on the journey with your brand. Make the sustainable choice the easiest (overcome existing frictions by helping people find and understand information or making these options more affordable), most meaningful (motivating people by making sustainability socially desirable) and most rewarding (encouraging a new behaviour by delivering an even better experience or providing incentives) option.
IKEA Australia is helping customers live more sustainably and deal with the cost-of-living crisis with its Australian-first in-store Sustainable Living Shop. This dedicated ‘shop within a shop’ offers products using less energy and creating less waste that can also help customers potentially saving them money over the longer term. The brand also gives shoppers the chance to save on ‘second-life’ products through its As-Is Online shopping platform. Here they can browse and reserve second-life IKEA furniture and homewares such as discontinued items, gently used and ex-showroom displays, and pre-loved products returned through their Buy Back service.
3. Design local interventions because context is king Identify the global issues but design local interventions
that reflect the cultural context and everyday realities of your target audience. Context and outcomes are key to design so identifying the key groups and designing local interventions that reflect the cultural context and everyday realities of critical audiences will make a greater impact. The different levels of consumer engagement with social and environmental issues require different interventions. You must explore how to guide your brand through this matrix to help consumers on their journey.
Aesop launched its first product refill station at its South Yarra store for three of its best-selling products, with the aim of helping consumers to lower their carbon footprint, while saving money at the same time. Aesop is a strong performer among health and beauty retailers on the Kantar BrandZ Sustainability Index measure of environmental responsibility.
4. Seek holistic solutions – don’t just paper over the cracks
Transformative change means addressing the root issues rather than the symptoms – but in a genuine and effective way, for example, through partnerships. It may even be time to see competitors as collaborators. Develop partnerships that drive innovation. Real sustainability means addressing fundamental issues and exploring new, low waste ways of doing business that will drive behaviour change. When you start thinking holistically and systematically about the root causes of waste in your business, there may be hundreds of legacy issues.
Partnerships offer a way to create new business models and amplify the pace of transformation outside current ways of working. People want brands to adopt models that are more in line with circular economy principles – that means looking at areas such as refurbishment, repair, sharing and the use of alternative high-quality sustainable materials in production. We also want brands to play their part in driving wider societal change through a cultural role. By not promoting a disposable product lifestyle, brands have the power to reframe the narrative and change the norm.
5.Remember to take everyone on the sustainability journey
There’s a huge opportunity for brands that get the holistic journey right. Australia Post (the top-ranked brand in Australia’s Kantar BrandZ Sustainability Index) has been expanding its electric delivery vehicle fleet, investing in renewable energy sources, and reducing, reusing, and recycling packaging and waste. But Australia Post is not only focusing on its own operations – it also offers guidance and tools that can help other brands deploy more sustainable business practices.
While initiatives such as bans on single-use plastics are a start, the biggest opportunity for Aussie brands will be designing products that bring as many people on the sustainability journey as possible. Waste is a topic that touches many people and is a real white space to design for mass adoption, even if different segments need to be activated in different ways.
Is your brand ready take the lead on innovation for a waste free future?