Sustainability Is The New Black: How businesses Are Innovating To Save The Planet

Sustainability Is The New Black: How businesses Are Innovating To Save The Planet

Sustainability is the new black: How businesses are innovating to save the planet

As the world becomes more aware of the impact of human activities on the planet, sustainability is increasingly becoming a pillar on which businesses must rely upon

In 2015, Adidas launched its “Parley for the Oceans” initiative. The sportswear giant pledged to reduce ocean plastic pollution by using recycled plastic and to use only recycled polyester in all of its products by 2024. True to their word, Adidas’ 2019 biodegradable shoes hit the market to much curiosity. The efforts paid off – Adidas saw a significant increase in sales in 2019, as it sold 11 million pairs, made entirely from recycled ocean plastic.

A curious shift is afoot. As the world becomes more aware of the impact of human lives and activities on the planet, adopting to innovative sustainability has become paramount. From lifestyle to fashion, companies are waking up to the benefits of embracing sustainability, and the technical innovation needed to achieve it, not only for the environment but also for their financial progress.

Ready, set, change
The shift towards sustainability requires a change in mindset, from a linear “take-make-waste” approach to a circular one that considers the entire lifecycle of products and services. This means optimizing each stage of production to be more sustainable, from raw materials extraction to end-of-life disposal. This can lead to more efficient use of resources, reduced waste and pollution, and increased social and economic benefits for all stakeholders.

Patagonia, the American clothing company, has been one of the earliest adaptors of this model. For nearly 40 years, the company’s mission statement has read, “We’re in business to save our home planet.” And true to it, for a fast-fashion brand, they have long implemented various measures to be more conscious of their environmental impact.

In their most recent effort, they launched a program called Worn Wear, in 2017. To combat the alarming quantity of discarded clothes, Patagonia encouraged customers to repair their products instead of buying new ones. Since launch, the program has seen significant success, with a global footprint of 70 repair stores and over 100,000 clothes repaired each year. This has helped Patagonia see a steady increase in sales, proving that sustainability can be good for business.

Innovation for Sustainability
In the interest of keeping up with the times, brands are also recognising that long-term sustainability requires a willingness to embrace new ways of doing business and to invest in new technologies. Lifestyle brands like Adidas and H&M are innovating by implementing circular business models to not only reduce their environmental impact but also to meet the growing demand for sustainable products from consumers.

In 2018, luxury fashion brand Gucci embraced technical innovation to improve efficiency in its production. They launched the Gucci ArtLab – a space for innovation and experimentation, in Florence, Italy. Products born in the lab – like the Gucci Circular Lines collection, where all products are made of recycled and sustainably sourced materials – have contributed to a decrease in Gucci’s plastic and carbon footprint.

“These are critical times when we can all play our part delivering on the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Mario Bizzarri, CEO, Gucci about the ArtLab (source: Vogue). “The only way to do that is by bringing people together, sharing ideas and innovation,” he said. These efforts have produced a 40% increase in online sales for Gucci since 2019.

Empowering Communities
It’s essential to also note that because companies’ decisions impact communities at large, the non-prioritization of sustainable social responsibility, for creating a more equitable world can lead to not only legal and financial risks, but also reputational damage.

That is exactly what happened with Whole Foods, the American supermarket chain that was known for selling organic products, supporting local farmers, and promoting sustainable agriculture. However, the company faced criticism for its lack of attention to social responsibility. In 2016, Whole Foods battled with near-irreversible damage when allegations of union-busting, low wages and lack of business transparency surfaced. These issues led to a decline in customer trust, which ultimately impacted the company’s financial performance and let to it being acquired by Amazon in 2017.

Customer trust is a pivotal tenet for the long-term viability of businesses and organizations. Consumers and investors alike are increasingly likely to trust in businesses and organizations that take responsibility and address social and environmental issues.

In conclusion, it is becoming increasingly imperative for companies and brands worldwide to hold sustainability at the centre of innovation. By prioritizing sustainability, companies and consumers benefit from reduced waste and pollution, and can play an active role in creating a better future for themselves and the planet.

Yogesh Chaudhary, Director, Jaipur rugs

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