Six lessons from The Grocer Conference on how to build a sustainable brand

Recently, Elephants attended The Grocer’s virtual sustainability conference which consisted of a range of talks from inspirational keynote speakers and panelists from the biggest brands and organisations.

Talks covered topics from how the pandemic has changed shopper attitudes towards sustainability, to the steps brands can take to become carbon neutral, to sustainable packaging solutions. However, two talks in particular stood out to us and we learnt six important lessons from them.

The first talk was about communicating sustainability messages by Anna Sudbury from Pinterest. She focused on the need for brands to use the power of positivity in their communications surrounding sustainability. This year, consumers are in desperate need of positive messaging, especially after 2020 unsurprisingly became the year of ‘doom scrolling’. Indeed 6 in 10 adults agree they’re more likely to remember, trust, feel positive or purchase a brand if it uses positive messaging. Brands must therefore focus on positive things they and their consumers can do in terms of being sustainable.

This talk also emphasized how essential it is for brands to match their words with actions and avoid jargon. Consumers are adept at uncovering the truth and if brands aren’t living up to their sustainability goals, they will get caught out. A final point raised was the need to make sustainable choices simple and attainable for consumers. For example, by using well recognized accreditation such as Fair Trade or Bcorp, brands can make it easy for consumers to see the sustainable choice.

The second talk that stood out was an insightful talk given by Catherine Conway from Unpackaged Innovation on closed loop zero waste shopping. She explored the different ways in which brands are attempting to reduce packaging waste through providing refill stations in store or allowing consumers to return packaging through the post/ in store. The closed loop system is not only great for the planet, but also provides a powerful brand narrative. Today’s consumers, and in particular environmentally conscious millennials and Gen Z, want to know how brands are reducing packaging waste.

The talk also underlined that closed loop shopping is the future of the FMCG industry. Though we’ve only seen pilots in supermarkets so far, such as the Unpacked scheme at Waitrose, we are already seeing many smaller brands such as Beauty Kitchen implementing the model. It is just a matter of time before the FMCG giants catch up.  A final point raised in this talk was the need for brands to take on the role of being leaders and educators in sustainability. Rather than waiting for the government to implement environmental policies, brands should take swift and tangible action to do their part for the planet.

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