Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJuly 31, 2020
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5min835

Emerging from the coronavirus lockdown, brands and retailers are expected to shift towards sustainability as 37 percent of UK and Irish consumers became more conscious of their online shopping habits and the impact it has on the environment.

The research conducted by PFS and LiveArea has found a growing environmental awareness in consumers, with over 70 percent looking for recyclable or minimised use of packaging when buying from brands.

The temporary closure of brick-and-mortar stores resulted in many consumers reevaluating their shopping habits and how it impacts the environment. The report ‘Selling Sustainability: Adapting to the New Conscious Consumer’ reveals more and more consumers turning to more sustainable ways of buying, a result of the change in shopping habits.

During the worldwide lockdown, many consumers had in mind the process retailers go through prior to each successful delivery, which caused only 37 percent of them to be satisfied with the communication from online retailers or brands on the environmental impact.

Inquiries such as where and how a product is sourced are also becoming more important in the purchasing process, leading to 35 percent of consumers now only make a purchase if a product is naturally and locally sourced or sustainable. Fifty-six percent of respondents prefer to buy products produced in their own country.

Just below half (43 percent) of the surveyed consumers prefer to purchase in-store or to buy online pick-up in store (BOPIS), believing that these preferences have a lower environmental impact compared to online-only shopping.

Over-purchasing is another of consumer habits that has decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with over a third (37 percent) of all shoppers having stopped over-purchasing in aim to reduce pollution caused by delivery vehicles. Item returns have fallen as 30 percent of respondents are returning fewer items than before the shift towards sustainability. This change in habits could greatly impact on how online retailers and brands approach promotions in the future.

There is still a considerable lack of information provided by online retailers and brands on how they are handling returned items. Only 26 percent of consumers say that they are aware of what happens to products when they return them to online retailers and brands.

According to the figures from Optoro, a technology company that works with retailers and manufacturers to manage and then resell their returned and excess merchandise, 5 billion pounds of waste is generated every year through such waste. Fifteen million metric tons of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere during the handling of returned items.

Contrary to this, the research found that 42 percent of consumers believe the returned products are reused or recycled, while only 22 percent is aware that the goods are often thrown away. Indicating a need for change, more than 70 percent of consumers would change their online shopping habits if they were aware of the amount of returns that go to landfill.

On a positive note, consumers are actively seeking online retailers and brands who stand by their sustainable credentials. The findings reveal that over half of French consumers are diligent in checking an item’s credentials, while there are only 38 percent of those in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Christophe Pecoraro, Managing Director of PFS Europe, commented: “For retailers, a change in behaviour and beliefs means they must work even harder to gain and maintain loyalty from consumers by positioning themselves as a brand that understands the needs and desires of its customers throughout the entire buying journey. Getting the balance right is important, but so too is authenticity. Consumers can see through empty gestures – substance is essential. Consumers are now more carefully considering what, where and how they buy items. The brands that meet these needs will be best positioned to thrive in the future.”

Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director at LiveArea EMEA, said: “Our research clearly highlights the immediate need for brands to be more environmentally responsible. The COVID-19 pandemic has made consumers reassess what’s important to them and their own personal impact on the planet. Now more than ever these conscious consumers expect brands to deliver on sustainability and are looking for them to communicate how they are doing this.”


Simon AndrewSimon AndrewFebruary 24, 2020
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11min1172

Veganism has hit the news lately thanks to a court ruling that vegans are entitled to protections in the workplace.

It seems like a step forward for the movement, but is this actually just another division across the workforce?

Veganism, as defined by the Vegan Society, is “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.

It centres around a diet free from meat, eggs and dairy, but also includes the avoidance of leather, wool, and any other animal-based products. In recent news, studies and documentaries, veganism has been connected to a positive impact on climate change and better physical health.

Yet for many people, it still conjures up frustration and annoyance.

Two recent reports have highlighted how this personal choice is now affecting work life:

  1. A law firm came out to say they would no longer pay expenses for any meals containing meat
  2. The Vegan Society released guidelines to help support vegans in the workplace

Both of these stories broke less than one month after a landmark hearing that saw veganism given legal protection under the Equality Act 2010.

The workplace guidelines recently set out by the Vegan Society include:

  • Providing separate food preparation areas
  • Giving access to vegan-friendly clothing
  • Exempting vegans from corporate events that involve animals in a negative way (hog roasts, horse racing etc.)

Veganism is about wellbeing and compassion. But the danger here is that by enforcing these rules, and setting out these guidelines, we’re widening a divide which we see in other areas of work and life too.

It becomes us and them

There’s an age-old psychological concept, coined in the 1970s, called Social Identity Theory.

The basis is quite simple – we define ourselves by the groups we belong to. You may be a Christian, a bird watcher, a nurse, or many other things. When you feel part of a group, you feel an almost automatic connection to other members. As any motorcyclist or lorry driver will undoubtedly tell you, you generally acknowledge and support people that share this commonality.

There are many positives to belonging to a group. But there is a flip side.

Consider football supporters. The majority are friendly, good, everyday folk. Yet the minority fight and clash because they support different teams. They wear different colour shirts and are founded in different regions, but beyond that, surely they have no reason to hate each other?

Consider the gang problem in London, religious discrimination, our historical problems with race, and pretty much any war or conflict you can name.

Like it or not, it’s in our nature.

According to Social Identity Theory, we form in and out groups. In groups are the ones we belong to and we seek comparisons with other members. Out groups are the ones different from our own. And from these, we see contrast.

Evolution makes it clearer

Survival has long been associated with being an accepted member of the group. It’s still true today, but if we look back before civilisation (around 50,000 years ago – just a blink in our evolutionary history) the idea of sharing skills, tools, looking out for danger and so on would have been more prevalent.

If resources were scarce then groups may clash. Laying claim over a land rich in fertile crops and animals would undoubtedly have meant defending it from other groups. It’s true that today we don’t face the same daily strains. But belonging to a group still has many advantages.

Not to mention isolation being the biggest cause of depression.

The impact on Employee Experience

Veganism is just one example of the challenges social grouping can bring to the workplace. You can find many more – the most obvious of which is departmental separation.

The connection between departments is often said to be the weakest link in a business, and for good reason. Human nature connects us to the rest of our team. We support them, work together and share many similarities. Other departments, well they fail to deliver, make our life harder, and so on.

Whatever the grouping, we have to find the right balance. If we create divides between people, we have to expect social biases.

Our job as employers is to find ways to connect those groups, to bridge those divides and to be empathetic to all. We have to ask ourselves:

  • What can we do to cross-pollinate our teams?
  • How can we build a better understanding and respect of these differences?
  • How do we balance the support of one group at the penalisation of another?

The best answers often come from employees themselves. And forming that volunteer group could be a way of breaking down others.

Finding common ground

Most people want the world to be a better place. To feed the poor, house the homeless, protect the planet.

These things are the underlying drivers for many vegans. Finding these common grounds will help breakdown barriers and find a way of connecting people, making them part of the same objective. Through a wider education on sustainability, nutrition, and health, people can make up their own minds but also gain a better understanding of those with differing views.

As an organisation, you can influence the lives of all your employees. That may be hundreds or thousands of people.

Do you have a responsibility to use that positively? Yes, you probably do.

If you firmly believe that meat and dairy have negative impacts on health and the environment – what do you do?

The vegan stories in the news are of people trying to do good, not attack your beliefs. The changes and guidelines that have come out, have been with positive intent.

The trouble is, we are not rational folk. You could find many reasons on paper why these things would be good ideas. But the reality? People dig their heals in, become less open minded and put up a wall. And we all move a step back.

So next time you’re looking to make changes in your organisation, think about the emotional response of employees and base your change in education. Through a shared understanding we can find common ground, and with common ground comes empathy and support.

Something we all need as part of our experience at work.


Nic RedfernJuly 29, 2019
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8min1605

Over the last decade, there has been a noticeable change in the way society perceives the environment.

Having seen the impact pollution and carbon emissions is having on the ecological system, consumers and businesses alike are adopting new practices in a bid to sustainably manage the planet’s resources. 

As a result, consumers are increasingly making the conscious decision to engage with companies that are actively supporting environmental initiatives, or who have adopted greener practices. According to a global survey by Nielsen, 81 percent of consumers feel strongly that companies should actively help improve the environment.

For a business, adopting greener work ethics isn’t just good for the planet – there are also cost-reduction benefits that arise when pursuing more eco-friendly objectives. As someone who has worked closely with companies large and small, I have seen first-hand that with careful planning, reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint can have significant cost-efficient outcomes and reduce unnecessary expenditures.

This might appear easier said than done, so let’s consider some ways that companies can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and reap the cost-benefits that could arise from this change. 

What is a carbon footprint?

While the term is becoming more commonly used in day-to-day life, what exactly do we mean by the phrase ‘carbon footprint’ when applied to businesses? In simple terms, a carbon footprint is the best estimate of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced to directly and indirectly operate a business.

A business’ carbon footprint could therefore be the emissions produced in the manufacturing of a product, or the amount of electricity consumed by a company to facilitate its daily operations. Importantly, regardless of the product or service being offered, there are a number of simple ways that businesses can cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, this task has become much easier now thanks to technological innovations that can streamline and simplify operations.

Lowering a carbon footprint doesn’t have to be needlessly complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as switching to a renewable energy supplier.

Some widely used energy providers offer renewable energy solutions, with many of these backed by REGO (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin) certificates. To cut down on excessive energy usage and find a cleaner alternative, be sure to seek out solutions with REGO, which guarantees that the origin of the energy supplied is renewably resourced.

What’s more, besides helping businesses become more sustainable, embracing energy efficiency can also deliver energy cost savings. To find the best deal on business energy prices, be sure to compare tariffs on online comparison websites to find one best suited to your needs. 

Re-evaluating daily practices and educating staff

Awareness is at the heart of change, so it’s important to ensure that all staff members are well-versed in the simple steps they can take at work to reduce carbon emissions. Holding staff education initiatives is a great way of spreading awareness about environmentally damaging practices, and the solutions available to address these.

Utilise existing and readily available tech

Did you know that the pulp, paper and print industry accounts for 3.1 percent of Europe’s total energy consumption? The environmental impact of paper is significant, even with growing recycling efforts.

To combat this problem, businesses need to be aware of the impact printing and extensive hard copy record-keeping can have on the environment and be encouraged to reduce the amount of paper they consume. The advent of cloud computing has paved the way for this, allowing businesses to offer digital versions of documents in computerised management systems which can be accessed at any time, and in any place.

Reassess work commutes

It’s also important not to overlook the indirect contributions to an organisation’s carbon emissions, including those which arise from staff commuting to and from work every day using cars. Technological advances in connectivity mean than employees can now work efficiently from home, removing the need to venture into the office every morning.

Xerox recently followed this path and designed a Virtual Workforce Programme to use the benefits of working from home as a means to both run a productive company and benefit the environment. Through the programme, 11 percent of its workforce work from home full-time. But how does this translate to tangible results? Through ‘telecommuting’, Xerox managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40,894 metric tonnes.

Alternatively, if possible, staff should be encouraged to cycle or walk to work – not only will this reduce potential carbon emissions, it will also encourage a healthier lifestyle for employees. So, for businesses keen to make the necessary changes to reduce their carbon footprint, promoting remote working should be high on the priority list.

Reducing a company’s carbon footprint doesn’t just have a positive impact on the environment – it can also deliver huge energy savings by helping to identify ways to reduce costs and consumption, and ultimately improve their operational efficiency. The above suggestions are but a handful of solutions that can be readily adopted. As such, I would encourage businesses of all sizes to explore ways that they can reduce their carbon footprint, and at the same time evaluate how they stand to benefit from the cost saving potential.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 25, 2019
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3min1965

A majority of young British customers say they would reconsider their spending behaviours if retailers were better at communicating the environmental impact of their purchases.

In new research from inRiver, 1,500 UK consumers between the ages of 16-44 were quizzed on sustainable shopping and buying preferences, and 69 percent said product information detailing the sustainability and environmental impact would make them more likely to purchase.

Meanwhile, 66 percent of people who would purchase products from abroad if they were a cheaper price said they would reconsider this if retailers shared more data and product content about the environmental impact of delivery.

This increased transparency would encourage 60 percent of buyers to reconsider the number of purchases they return. With the issue of ‘serial returners’ costing UK retailers an estimated £20bn a year, providing consumers with a greater awareness of the environmental implications of deliveries and returns could save businesses millions while having a positive impact on the environment

One-fifth of consumers said they only buy sustainable products. Overall, when assessing the key factors considered when committing to a purchase, sustainable packaging (six percent) and materials (six percent), ethical production (five percent), and carbon footprint of delivery (four percent) were all listed the most important, accounting for 21 percent in total. Unsurprisingly however, price (41 percent) and quality (25 percent) dominated consumer preference as the key purchase drivers.

Eco factors are growing in importance for consumers, as 63 percent stated they would stop using a brand due to its detrimental impact on the environment. Moreover, just under half of consumers (47 percent) would be willing to pay more for upcycled products or those made from recycled materials, such as Adidas’ 100 percent recyclable trainer. A further 43 percent would buy these products, but would be unwilling to pay more.

Steve Gershik, CMO at inRiver said: “These findings attest to the importance of environmental considerations for today’s savvy consumers. Buyers want to know that the purchases they make and delivery methods they are sustainable, and are looking to retailers to support these choices. It’s up to businesses to harness this increasing trend and ensure the product information they provide gives consumers a clear picture of what to expect and the impact it may have.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 26, 2019
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2min1449

A majority of UK customers would switch to a direct to consumer (DTC) subscription service for everyday high street purchases, according to a new survey.

Research by Rakuten Marketing reveals 69 percent of British consumers would choose a subscription delivery service for goods including cosmetics, household cleaning products, and health supplements if available.

Rakuten previously found that DTC subscription brands such as Birchbox, SimplyCook, and Dollar Shave Club were enjoying a conversion rate of one in every five customers who had heard of them.

The latest survey reveals that in the UK, price (71 percent) and product quality (50 percent) continue to play by far the most important role in driving a purchase. However, being ethical (17 percent) and sustainable (16 percent) also now rank among the top demands among consumers looking to buy from one of these DTC brands.

Anthony Capano, Managing Director EMEA at Rakuten Marketing, said: “Now these DTC brands have become successful international businesses, they will encounter rising pressure to act as ‘good global citizens’. Legacy brands like Waitrose have very effectively leveraged consumer interest in sustainability across the media with attempts to minimise packaging. This is certainly an area that could put DTC brands – many of whom rely on packaging and transporting each product individually – on the back foot.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 7, 2019
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2min1526

A significant number of UK employees would refuse a job offer with a firm they felt was neglecting sustainability.

That is the findings of a survey of 1,000 office workers commissioned by TopLine Film. Conducted to mark the UN’s 46th World Environment Day, the poll found that 24 percent would turn down a job over a lack of green ideals in an organisation, while a majority – 73 percent – feel their current workplace could make sustainability improvements.

Almost a third (31 percent) don’t think their workplace is environmentally sustainable, while when asked whose responsibility it is for an eco-friendly workplace, the majority (72 percent) said it was incumbent on employees themselves to push for improvements. Twenty-four percent felt this responsibility fell to the CEO, and 17 percent cited HR as the appropriate department to take action.

When asked what their workplaces currently do to address sustainability, the most popular activity was recycling office waste (50 percent). Others cited policies to reduce paper usage (29 percent); reminding staff to reduce energy consumption (29 percent); using energy efficient fixtures (27 percent); hosting virtual meetings to reduce travel time (26 percent); and encouraging reusable kitchenware (24 percent).

Jamie Field, MD of TopLine Film said: “Establishing environmentally friendly practices in the workplace is simply good for business. Attracting and retaining employees is as good a motivation as any other to get your company thinking about sustainability. But a sustainable mindset starts from the top – it’s only fair that those in charge show their commitment to the cause, and implement policies that encourage sustainability at work.”




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