Sustainability. Easier said than done?
Customer attitude vs behaviour. Pick your side.
If a global pandemic doesn't make us sit up and listen, what will? Although the pandemic might not be a direct link to the climate crisis, it's undeniably forced us all to open our eyes to the way we live and the side-effects to our luxury lifestyles.
More than ever, we are questioning the backstory of the products we own, and the start and end game of what we buy. Where's it come from, and just as importantly, where's it going to end up? And for how many years?
None of us individually want to see our planet fall apart, we are all collectively worried for the future, so why do these anxieties sit so separately from our attitudes and behaviours as consumers? Or do they?
Easier said than done is the phrase that comes to mind. They is a shift in how people are buying, but it's a slow transition. Consumers are demanding more from businesses, businesses are demanding more from governments, Greta et al are demanding more from all of humanity. If we want to keep this earth breathing, the way we all live needs to be reconsidered on a mass scale, and mass change is very rarely an overnight thing (Pandemic aside).
It was over 10 years ago that we launched the Tiny Box Company in order to help other businesses wrap their everyday operations in more sustainable solutions, so taking part in occasions like World Environment Day (1) are no brainers for us. Encouraging businesses to improve their environmental efforts through packaging is at the heart of what we do. Businesses need single use packaging, the least we can do is choose a circular option that will do as little damage to the environment as possible.
There are even links to the climate state being a possible cause of the current and previous pandemics. (2) “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” Makes sense!
We now know more information about being sustainable than ever before, with the technology available and resources at hand there's no reason for the products not to sell... so it must be the customer!
The issue is the difference in customer attitude compared to customer behaviour.(4) "People have seen the connection between the environmental disaster and quality of human life. Quality of life has been affected by climate change." So we know their attitude towards sustainability is positive, who wouldn't want to protect the future of their children? However, their behaviour doesn't reflect this... Many arguments can be made as to reasons for this; compassion fatigue, price, lack of understanding and awareness, ease. So, how can we change this?
Ease of what?
Ease of purchase, ease of sourcing, ease of use. Does anything worth having come easily?
It would be much easier to sell sustainable products to customers if there was as much available as non-sustainable products. Meaning a separate section for the eco-friendly items would allow customers to find the products with less of an effort. This allows customers to source sustainable products with ease. Following on from this, ease of purchase is essential in order to convince customers that purchasing sustainable products isn't an extra effort, this would mean less clicks, clear information and good quality imaging. By creating the section dedicated to sustainable items means customers will have to make less clicks to find out if each individual product is sustainable, spending less time looking at items that do not meet their needs... it just makes sense! Ease of wear relates to the consumer. If the quality of the product or how it would normally be used is affected because its sustainable, customers will return to purchase the non-sustainable option. It is very important for the product to match the quality alternative products, even better, exceed them.
Which brands are sustainable?
More brands than you think are already making sustainable lines... not just small brands either! (5) Nike currently have a selection of clothing, shoes, accessories and equipment that are made from at least 20% sustainable materials, for men and women. Although you may say ‘it’s only a maximum of 20%’, Nike have taken steps in the right direction to become more sustainable. Here at Tiny Box Company (6), 90% of our products are ethically sourced, recyclable and we recycle everything we can across the business! We highlight this on the home page of our website, as we consider this a strong selling point for our business and products. Nike haven’t promoted their line of sustainable products as obviously, which may answer the question to why these products aren't as popular.
Some customers do not consider or aren't aware of the sustainable alternatives when shopping for a product, which is why businesses and brands may need to give a little or 'tiny' push to act. By promoting these products as much as they would non-sustainable products, it would make customers more aware of the business being
considerate of the environment. Should a business show more of the range of products to offer and possibly convince competitors to jump on what should be a trend and do the same. This will also help them for future reference as they will have more knowledge on the subject and what's on offer to them.
How to help customer be sustainable themselves:
Once your customer has purchased a sustainable product, they’ve won the war between customer attitude and behaviour, but it shouldn't end there! What else can they do to help the environment with your product?
Businesses need to be talking about what they’re doing to be more sustainable, as well as promoting what their customer should do with the product once finished with it. For example, how to recycle it or ways to reuse it. Businesses can display this on their website under the sustainable products section mentioned before, (8)
or simply on the packaging of the product, as well as giving directions for what to do with each part of the product and packaging to be more eco-friendly. Actions such as these could help convert a customer into continuous purchase of sustainable products rather than a one of purchase with a return to non sustainable products; AKA, #GoGreen!
(4) Damianus Abun, Alfie Racoma. Environmental Attitude and Environmental Behavior of Catholic Colleges’ Employees in Ilocos Sur, Philippines. TEXILA INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ACA- DEMIC RESEARCH, 2017, 4 (1), pp.23-52. 10.21522/tijar.2014.04.01.art003 . hal-02330424