For many years the world has seen organizations founded to drive progress in environmental sustainability. The list is long, and increasing with new schemes and governance organizations being announced almost daily there are even organizations for ‘eco friendly concrete’ and ‘the sustainable phosphorous alliance!’ What was once a fad that many companies paid lip service to, is fast becoming a dynamic force for change within process manufacturing industry, and for good reason.
Sustainability on the Rise
Sustainability is considered the management of environment, social and governance issues. Unfortunately, the process manufacturing industry has not been the most sustainable with high amounts of energy used to produce, package, process and store food. However, that is all changing, 53% of CEOs say involvement in sustainability is increasing and what’s more 81% believe their company’s reputation for sustainability is as important to the consumer as its products.
Proven sustainability is also fast becoming a barrier to selling to many of the major retailers with companies like Walmart creating a sustainability index for the life of its products, whilst others are demanding suppliers enter into approved and auditable schemes like the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Suppliers ignoring this requirement are likely to see their products excluded from the supermarket shelves as the retailers fight for loyalty using their sustainability credentials.
Importance of Sustainability to Consumers
There’s no question that consumers have concerns over environmental sustainability, the Millennials and Z Generation leading the way.
The connected, amplified voice of social media has shifted the sustainability conversation from a technical to a humanizing conversation. This makes it very difficult for companies to ignore their own responsibilities to the environment and more important brand reputation and loyalty.
Having access to information that shows where and how a product is produced now influence whether a consumer purchases a product and with e-labels that is becoming much simpler. Knowing that a product or brand is sustainable gives consumers confidence in their purchase and an opportunity to gain customer loyalty and a platform for growth in the process manufacturing industry
Sustainability on the bottom line
Demonstrating and proving sustainability isn’t just to placate the consumer, the effect on growth and the bottom line are significant as the following examples show.
Chocolate 6x market growth
The good news for chocolate lovers is that the chocolate market grew 3% last year. However, chocolate with environmental claims, such as made with renewable energy, grew by 22%. Similarly, chocolates produced without artificial ingredients grew by 16% and chocolate with claims of fair trade rang in at 10%.
Similarly, sustainable coffee made leaps and bounds last year. The coffee market grew 4% compared to 21% for coffee with fair trade claims as well as 25% for coffee produced with environmental claims.
Both the chocolate and coffee example demonstrate that consumers have an appreciation for sustainability claims on both food and beverage products. In fact, sustainable brands outperform the market by 120% and CEOs implementing sustainability measures within their organizations will increase growth.
Leaders in sustainability
There are countless examples of businesses leading in sustainability can improving corporate image as well as their bottom line. McCormick & Company for example, has large environmental and sustainability goals. It takes responsibility for long-term sustainability of its products and the world. By incorporating sustainability across its operations it hopes to achieve 100% reused, recycled or repurposed plastic packaging, an 80% reduction of solid waste and a 20% reduction in water usage.
In fact, this commitment to operating sustainably has resulted in McCormick & Company being recognized as the 23rd most sustainable corporation and number one in food products industry on the Corporate Knights Global 100 Sustainability index.
A quick look at McCormick & Company Market Summary shows impressive growth, which might suggest a positive correlation with the company’s commitment to sustainability. Taken seriously, a commitment to sustainability proves to be an opportunity for innovative growth.
So, in summary, considering the many sustainability benchmarks that exist today and the move from ad hoc compliance to an audited requirement, it is imperative for manufactures to add sustainability considerations to their products and business strategy. Sustainability presents an opportunity for innovative growth and will become the key to survival not just for manufacturers but for the planet.
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Image credit: Photographer: Romolo Tavani