Topics such as the climate crisis and environmental protection are increasingly dominating our news. There is not a day without a discussion about the need for action, not a news program without a headline about it.

Consumers and manufacturers are therefore increasingly confronted with this issue and it is clear that consumption habits will change significantly in the coming years.

Sustainability is here to stay: Many consumers let their environmental awareness guide their decisions, the Statista report “Sustainable Consumption 2021” found. Some of the key findings of this report done in Germany this year where:

 

  • Only a minority of 15 percent believe that sustainability is a buzzword that will lose importance in the future.
  • Germans consider packaging (56%), animal welfare (55%) and fair trade (49%) to be particularly important aspects of sustainable consumption.
  • More than half believe that their behavior can help solve environmental problems.
  • However, older consumers in particular (43% of those over 50) believe that companies must also be held accountable.
  • One in two consumers say they have changed or adapted their consumption behavior for sustainability reasons.
  • This includes trying out new products and stores and being willing to spend more money on sustainable products.
  • In addition, consumers are willing to forgo products that do not meet sustainability standards: More than 25 percent of respondents have refrained from buying certain foods

 

This trend is likely to continue and increase. And so, the question is how leading brands can help shape a sustainable future. The possible answers are complex and can only be answered in the context of a brand’s particular situation and eco system. The entire value chain of a brand should be taken into consideration.

 

In this article, we would like to pick up on 3 promising approaches which we consider a good way to demonstrate responsibility and leadership in this area:

 

 

Approach #1: Integrated Supply Chain (Lindt Farming Program):

 

Lindt has developed a quite interesting approach towards a sustainable supply chain. To source their cocoa beans in a transparent and traceable way, they have created the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program which enables the company to trace 100% of their cocoa beans to their origin in an externally verified way.”

Particularly with a highly sensitive topic like cocoa beans, this approach can be seen as a strong statement, as it certainly requires complex planning, considerable resources, and detailed control, and it is therefore likely to be quite costly to implement.

However, by consistently implementing this farming program, the Lindt brand creates a long-term sustainable raw material base in combination with a coherent communication asset.

 

 

Approach #2: Eco Scores Labelling (Lidl Eco Scores Test Market)

 

Retailers are also already taking action in the area of sustainability. One of the pioneers in German food retailing is the Schwarz Group with its Lidl brand.

Lidl claims, that they look for ways to make is visible to shoppers, which impact products sold at Lidl have on the climate, biodiversity or resource consumption. Therefore, they are testing the use of the five-stage Eco Score on selected products in their Berlin stores this fall, in partnership with the developer ECO2 Initiative.”

What’s exciting about this method is that it includes a 5-level label that makes it easy and straight forward for consumers to understand how sustainable a product actually is.

It remains to be seen how this labeling performs in the aforementioned test scenario and whether Eco-Score labeling will subsequently be rolled out on a broader front. In any case, it is an approach with future potential that brands can use to bond with their consumers.

 

 

Approach #3: Food Waste Reduction (Danone Too Good to Go Initiative)

 

Danone is pursuing another exciting approach to sustainability. Danone is currently focusing on the topic of food waste, which also offers the opportunity to make an important contribution to more sustainable consumption.

Danone has set itself the challenging objective to reduce the avoidable food losses in their area of responsibility by 30 percent by the end of 2021 (compared to 2016) and by 50 percent by 2025.

This proactive approach is also quite remarkable from a brand perspective. Although it is completely separated from the current perception of a brand, it can help strengthen the core of the Danone brand. Additionally, this approach can also have a significant impact on competitors and retail partners, as consumers are likely to measure them against these benchmarks.

So, in summary, things are getting moving around sustainability and both food industry and retailers are taking the action to ensure products become more sustainable.

 

It will be exciting to see which companies and brands will prove to be true leaders in this area. In any case, it will take bold players to realize the full potential. There can be many winners in this game if initiative is taken fast and consequent. For brands, it should pay to be boldly ahead. For the sake of the planet, for the sake of the environment, and ultimately for the sake of all of us.

 

Ulrich Haist