‘Purpose’ over ‘profit’: Why businesses shouldn’t fear embracing a zero-waste future
Brands are acting quickly to embrace sustainability and as this week has been Zero Waste Week, what does a waste-free identity really mean for businesses? We speak to luxury packaging expert Robert Lockyer to find out more.
With fashion giants such as Christian Dior embracing the waste-free beauty model and Nike announcing that the brand would only use recycled plastics in all their shoes and clothing by 2024, there is a worldwide determination to solve the environmental crisis we are all in.
But pledging to put ‘purpose’ before ‘profit’ could actually deter many businesses who need to act now, says Robert Lockyer, CEO and founder behind luxury packaging provider Delta Global. The company provides bespoke and sustainable solutions to top names such as Tom Ford and Estee Lauder.
- What are the risks for businesses to go waste-free?
Robert told us: “Whilst there may be economic business risks in reducing your environmental footprint, a greater threat looms in irreversible climate change and risk of reputation.
“More recently we saw more than 30 leading brands commit to a G7 Fashion Pact. By working together to implement change, other brands will have to become part of the revolution in order to remain relevant with consumers.
“With little more than 10 years to stop the irreparable environmental effect, everyone should now be considering ‘purpose’ if they want the world to remain as we know it.”
- Should brands be forced to address climate change?
“There is some debate as to whether governing bodies should bring in legislation to ensure businesses oblige to a reduction in waste both internally and externally.”
“Many companies are simply ‘green-washing’ their messaging and not showing any tangible actions they have taken address the crisis. Corporations should be made to monitor and report on their impact, plus set realistic targets dependent on size and turnover in order to sustain our future.”
- How is the retail industry beginning to adopt the zero-waste ideology?
One iconic luxury brand, Dior, has removed excess internal packaging, replaced instruction leaflets with scannable QR codes and even removed plastic shop fit-outs for more durable glass ones. Pledging all formulas will contain 90% natural ingredients by 2020, their products are making waves when it comes to protecting water and soil.
Confronting the endless production process to meet consumer demands, Robert said it was important to consider developing circular product flows.
“Compostable materials, re-thinking dyes and inks, creating re-fillable and reusable items, plus circulating waste back into the supply chain are all noticeable trends.
“We need to ensure that the end of a product’s life-cycle is the beginning of another and educate the supply chain. Whether it’s salvaging paper cut-offs into branded inserts or reclaimed paper handles, there’s plenty of options that manufacturers can be thinking about. Alternatively, can we be recycling apparel into designer handbags and new clothing lines?”
- Is there a reluctance from businesses to go more sustainable because they fear it will be an expensive route?
While it will be more costly to create higher quality packaging, ethically source materials and deliver a better end-to-end process improving shipping functionality, Robert says the return on investment should be greater.
“What you spend in implementing a zero-waste identity should be made back in new leads, customer retention and recycled materials – less waste means less cost when getting rid of it,” he explained.
- How can businesses tackle these costs?
Many industries use the same suppliers and fulfillment companies – the assembly of these retailers will create a global framework which could enable companies to go completely waste-free.
Robert said: “The fashion industry in particular should be tackling production and shipping costs together. Consider what waste might your competitor be able to sell at a reduced rate that you can convert into something useful?
“Could combined forecasting databases across multiple companies stop under-used storage space in global transportation and reduce CO2 emissions by introducing a ‘container share’ method which is more cost-efficient and sustainable for everyone?”
- What trends are reaching the market during this ever-evolving time of sustainability?
The fashion world has already seen consumers begin to embrace the idea of buying less, yet higher quality pieces, with some brands creating entire lines designed to be ‘versatile’.
“Think of garments that can be worn in many different ways, like wrap dresses and blouses that can be adapted into skirts – the fashion industry should look at designing minimal, multi-performing items that can be priced higher due to their unique selling point,” said Robert.
“It’s not about being counter-productive by not making money; it’s about delivering a different message to your consumers.”
- What does the future of retail look like when creating this ‘waste-free’ identity?
“Not only are we seeing zero-waste stores introduced in city hot-spots, but I predict an influx of ‘bring back bins’ to in-store retailers, similar to the rise of ‘click and collect’ services in convenience stores, newsagents and supermarkets.
“An increase in recyclable drop-off stations for consumers to return their no-longer-wanted used goods could be implemented by the Government, alongside retailers.
“One example of this could be to incentivise a weekly community collect service within walking distance of residents, thereby ensuring it won’t contribute to unnecessary CO2 emissions.”
Robert added: “Creating an environmentally-driven identity is by all means an expense to undertake. But we shouldn’t forget that purpose will drive profit in an era of environmental, social and economic mindfulness.”