How brands can be more sustainable heading into 2022

Sam Oakes
December 10, 2021
Sustainability

Back in October this year, we witnessed leaders from around the world gather for the long-awaited UN climate change conference COP26. During the conference, many countries made bold statements for their collective commitments to curb methane emissions, halt and reserve forest loss, align the finance sector with a target of net-zero by 2050, and end international financing of fossil fuels (just to name a few). 

And whilst steps have been taken and progress has been made, the urgency for another conference was quickly arranged to create stronger emissions reduction targets for 2030. 

In the meantime though, the UK government is supporting and investing in businesses and consumers to create a greener and sustainable future, whilst aiming to reach their target of a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035. 

Taking all this into consideration, the pressure is on brands to ensure that they have their own sustainable plans in place, if not to create a more sustainable future, but to avoid backlash from conscious consumers, suppliers and government schemes. 

That’s why we have put together a checklist on how brands can be more sustainable heading into 2022, adopting sustainable initiatives to empower conscious consumers. 


Sustainable Leaders

But first, let’s take a look at some of the leading sustainable and ethical brands taking consumers by storm. 


Lucy & Yak

Lucy and Yak Fashion Brand


Founded by Lucy Greenwood and Chris Renwick in 2017, Lucy & Yak are a leading sustainable and ethical fashion brand creating stunning lines of dungarees, tops, bottoms and accessories. On top of that, any item of clothing that is less than perfect is sold at a discounted price on Depop, helping to reduce unwanted clothes going to landfills and overproduction in the warehouse. 

Based out of Yorkshire and a factory in India, Chris and Lucy ensure all employees are treated with respect and with a fair living wage - no matter the role or the country they live in. Their mission is to prove that sustainable clothing can be affordable and fashionable, whilst being accessible to all. 

Their approach to the fashion industry is one that each fashion brand can take into consideration looking forward. 


Karma Drinks

Karma Drinks Beverage Brand


Back in 2010, Matt Morrison, Simon Coley and Chris Morrison, the founders behind Karma Drinks, had a dream to create a drinks brand using ingredients that are good for the land, the people who grow them and the people who consume them. 

Karma Drinks provide fairtrade, organic and vegan drinks to customers, initially creating Karma Cola to give back to the people who originally found cola nuts. Now they have grown their product range, including the release of their popular climate-saving soda ‘Gingerella Ginger Ale’. 

With B Corp Pending, this sustainable and ethical brand provides a plastic-free alternative to fizzy drinks, one which customers can’t get enough of. 


“We’re facing some significant challenges as a planet but I believe there are solutions… The main ones are working with nature, not against it, and looking after the whole supply chain, particularly the growers and communities of growers. We need brave governments to incentivise consumers, businesses and growers to do the right thing. Change is coming but we need to move quicker. In my opinion, a few of the fastest ways to kickstart a more sustainable world would be to tax the polluters and incentivise those being progressive. ” 

Chris Morrison - Founder of Karma Drinks.


Aesop


B Corp Certified global beauty and wellbeing brand Aesop provides plant-based and laboratory-made skincare, hair and body care products to customers around the world. Created back in 1987 in Melbourne, Aesop creates vegan and cruelty-free products, successfully awarding them with the Leaping Bunny certification.

They source ingredients from sustainable and reputable sources across the world, providing genuine and quality products that pave the way for a more ethical and efficient beauty and wellness industry.


Wild

This brand is kicking sustainable living up a notch. Founded in 2019 by Freddy Ward and Charlie Bowes-Lyon, Wild is a natural-based deodorant brand, offering reusable aluminium cases with plastic-free refills made from compostable bamboo pulp. 

It is estimated that 600 million deodorant cans are consumed in the UK every year, which this industry alone is contributing to 15 million pounds of plastic waste. 

Whereas with Wild, they are tackling the issue with throw away bathroom products, bringing plastic pollution way down whilst maintaining quality and convenience for consumers. 


‘At Wild’s core, we want to encourage people to change their daily habits to help combat single-use plastic waste and the use of unnecessary chemicals on their bodies. Throughout our short existence, our innovation and product development has been led by our customers and as we grow in the future we will continue to put our customers at the forefront of the growth and development of the Wild brand and corresponding product portfolio. Going forward, we believe this approach will be integral to how brands carve out their sustainability mission and innovate products for the future.’ 

Harry Symes-Thompson - Head of Sales & Marketing

The Beeswax Wrap Co

The Beeswax Wrap Co Homeware Brand


Starting out in their kitchens back in 2017, The Beeswax Wrap Co has grown into an independent and female-led company, providing homemade reusable and plastic-free beeswax wraps and food storage bags. Made in Cotswolds UK, Beeswax Wrap Co provides a fantastic alternative option to cling film and sandwich bags.

They have even expanded their product range to include vegan wax wraps, eco-friendly firelighters and natural dish scrubbers (to name a few). Not only are they B Corp Certified, but they are also a living wage employer, provide flexible working hours for employees and offer each employee 2 paid days a year to volunteer. 

And that’s not all… From products to production, they operate using solar energy, working in a plastic-free workshop to provide plastic-free products that conscious consumers love. 


‘As a business, our view is that we can always do better. Our processes, supply chain and all other aspects of our business are reviewed regularly to see if there is a better option to be able to reduce our impact on the planet, as well as offer a better product or service to our customers.' 

Frances Beer - Founder of The Beeswax Wrap Co.

6 Steps to Becoming a Sustainable Brand [overview]

  1. Introduce a flexible working scheme
  2. Encourage active commuting
  3. Greener office spaces
  4. Pay fair living wages to all employees
  5. Be greener with data
  6. Give back to the community + support greener initiatives.

Introduce a Flexible Working Scheme

Working from home during covid-19 clearly accelerated the popularity of flexible working, not only for entry-level employees but also for managers and business owners. Whilst working from the office is sometimes necessary for certain industries, remote working has proved to have its advantages. 

Not only does it mean a decrease in commuting, but flexible working has proven to boost productivity and happiness in employees, as well as increase job satisfaction and commitment to work. In fact, it was revealed by the Office for National Statistics that 85% of remote workers want to use a hybrid approach of both home working and office-based working moving forward coming out of the pandemic.

Another form of flexible working is to introduce a 4-day work week, with employees having one day off each week to focus on their wellbeing and personal affairs. 4-day work weeks have shown ‘overwhelming success’ in Iceland, with many businesses in the UK (including Reward) introducing the scheme. Businesses that have tested this model have seen a 40% increase in productivity from employees, as well as reduced costs within the business and fewer health issues.


Encourage Active Commuting

Active commuting (commuting on foot, on a bike, or by an e-scooter) has become a popular way for employees to travel to the workplace, providing effective travel for people who would like to avoid public transport and become more active before and after work hours. 

Not only is it great for employees, but active commuting is a great way to reduce carbon emissions when commuting, improve air quality and lower congestion. Research shows that transportation is the most polluting sector in the UK, representing around 20% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. 

Active travel is even backed by the UK government, with cycle-to-work schemes, in which employees are able to purchase bikes and cycling equipment through their employer, whilst spreading the cost over 12 months. Along with providing health and environmental benefits, it is also cheaper for employees and increases productivity in the workplace.


Greener Office Spaces

Three potted cactus plants


It is a fact that the world of work is becoming greener as time goes on, which is not only beneficial to energy costs but also improves employee wellness and productivity. With greener office spaces, you will have better air quality in your workspace, which will allow your employees to have a more comfortable office to work in.

There are many ways in which you can improve your office space to be more sustainable. Introducing office plants, specifically air-purifying plants, are a fantastic way to brighten your day whilst creating a greener space. You could switch your office supplies up by exclusively buying sustainable office products and going paperless for greener day-to-day operations. Or you could take a big leap into embracing renewable energy for your office’s electricity and heating needs. 

There are many ways to create a sustainable office space for your brand. In a survey of over 1,000 young people, it was revealed that 57% of those aged between 18 and 34 would prefer to work for an employer who shared their environmental values. Listening and encouraging your employees to take the same initiative could help in creating a greener workplace far quicker than imagined.


Pay Fair Living Wages to All Employees

The general consensus of a living wage constitutes a wage that is enough to meet basic needs for workers and their families. In many countries, the government-set minimum wages fall short of what many estimate to be a living wage.

However, it is proven that economic growth is inclusive and sustainable when employees receive fair wages, which in turn helps businesses to flourish. Research shows that 75% of businesses saw an increase in motivation and retention rates from employees on a fair living wage, with 86% saying it has improved the reputation of their business. 

Not only does a living wage help support economic growth, but it also raises standards of health and wellbeing, whilst respecting the human rights of your workers. A fair living wage should allow employees to have enough to provide for themselves and their families basic needs, as well as discretionary income, which provisions enough to cover unexpected expenses.


Be Greener with Data

Now, this may be hard to believe but everything we do online can have a damaging impact on the environment. Sending unnecessary emails and hoarding emails in your inbox to storing photos and videos in the cloud. All of these actions require physical servers that constantly use energy. 

Research shows that the average email user hoards about 10,000 emails in their account. Applying this to how it affects the real world, email inboxes in the UK consume enough energy to light up the whole of London for 40 days. And that is just from an email inbox alone. 

It is also estimated that more than 64 million unnecessary emails are sent in the UK every day (and this was prior to the pandemic). This massively impacts a person’s IT carbon footprint, one which is growing daily. 

Even though it is a small step, educating your employees on these issues and encouraging them to be greener with their data can help make a difference to a business’ collective energy consumption. Being more aware of how much data you store in the cloud, regularly clearing out junk and reducing email file sizes can help to reduce carbon emissions. 


Give Back to the Community + Support Greener Initiatives

Volunteering Opportunities


Becoming more conscious of your community and the environment is the first step towards creating a more sustainable future, and it may be easier than you think.  In fact, volunteering is a great way to get involved and give back to your community, which helps to promote social sustainability

By choosing to support your community and greener initiatives, your brand is becoming a part of the ethical and eco-friendly movement to protect the environment - no matter how small or large of an impact. 


“Successful brands understand the need to go beyond profit. Consumers, employees and other stakeholders expect more from organisations than ever. Not only does supporting green initiatives and community projects help support people and the planet, giving back builds stronger ties with the communities you’re embedded within - creating better foundations for business by demonstrating you have shared values with those most important to the success of your brand.”

Mitchel White - Founder of Reward Agency. 


The Enablers of a Sustainable Future

Now it is time to put words into action! Now, we’re not saying that all of these need to be done to make you a sustainable brand and that everything needs to be changed overnight. We understand that sometimes these things can take a minute. 

What we are saying is that by utilising this checklist, and taking inspiration from sustainable and ethical brands, you can make positive changes within your business. One thing that many sustainable brands have in common is that they are Certified B Corporations. If you are truly passionate about building a sustainable brand, meeting the requirements of a B Corp Certification will certainly help in setting a goal for your business. 

Imagine your goal to a sustainable brand is like crossing a river on stepping stones - one step at a time gets you closer to your destination. 

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