Does your brand look like garbage to your customers?

Sustainable packaging, practices and ingredients are fast becoming hot topics as consumers expect more brands to take a socially responsible approach to the lifecycle of their products

Mounds of garbage abandoned by recycling workers at Dongxiaokou, Beijing.
Mounds of garbage abandoned by recycling workers at Dongxiaokou, Beijing.

Slowing down the fast fashion footprint

Sustainability isn’t just in beauty products; clothing producers are also in the spotlight. The rise of fast fashion brands and their growing global environmental impact has meant more consumers are becoming conscious of more ethical alternatives, sparking brands to rethink their sustainable practices as an integral part of their brand strategy

April marked the release of H&M’s sixth ‘Conscious Exclusive’ range, a capsule collection of clothing reportedly made to its highest principles of sustainable and fair trade practices.

But despite the Swedish fast fashion giant’s long-term sustainability ethos as released in its annual Sustainability Report last year, the ‘Conscious Exclusive’ collection forms just a tiny portion of its wider fast fashion production.

Locally, Aussie organic babywear retailer, Niovi Organics, is witnessing the pollution caused by the fast fashion industry in developing countries and is endeavouring to combat this with fundamental core brand values around safety, sustainability and transparency, its founder, Punitha Anandam, says.

“While importing our products, we have meticulously designed our products to reduce environmental footprint wherever possible,” she says. “We have limited satin labels in our clothing and printed labels wherever possible. The tags used for our clothing are made of decomposable cardboard too.”

When it comes to packaging, Niovi uses fully decomposable cardboard boxes during shipment, while gift boxes are made of recycled wood and can be reused.

Niovi Organics wooden box
Niovi Organics wooden box

“Plus all our products are wrapped in a fully decomposable tissue paper before being posted to customers,” Anandam continues.

According to Anandam, Niovi Organics’ ethical packaging model has been well received by customers and added to overall awareness of the brand.

When people buy our products they are pleased with the reusability of our gift boxes,” she says. “They are happy with the fact it’s not only sustainable, but a cool storage addition to their home. As our boxes are going to stay in our customers’ homes, it actually improves our brand awareness and we believe it would benefit us in the long run. The feedback we have been getting has been positive so far.”

Marketing executive for British fashion retailer, A Hume Country Clothing, Sam Williamson, agrees a consistent sustainable model from production through to delivery resonates strongly with customers, something the company recently did when shifting to recyclable online packaging.

“We insist on using ethical and sustainable packaging because it is completely aligned with our brand philosophy,” Williamson says. “Our clothes are created with sustainable materials and fabrics, and we spend huge amounts of time and money to ensure that our clothing is ethical. It makes sense that our packaging should follow suit.

“And it makes our brand stronger - definitely. In fact, many customers have expressed a relief that our packaging now aligns with the rest of our products. They've also said they're more likely to order online now rather than collect in-store, as they know the packaging is sustainable so they have less concerns.”

Sustainable leadership

One of ecostore’s biggest recent milestones in sustainable packaging has been the Carbon Capture Pak used across its range. The bottle is made from renewable sugarcane plastic that helps reduce your carbon footprint and is 100 per cent recyclable.

“We’re proud our brand is recognised for helping the planet and we want our leadership in sustainable packaging to inspire other companies in Australia and globally to build it into the way they do business,” Rands says. “Winning sustainability awards for our Carbon Capture Pak has also enhanced the reputation of our brand not just among customers, but also among suppliers and peers.”

A newer brand that sets itself apart from its competitors is condom manufacturer, Big Richard, founded by Lloyd Perry only a few years ago with a firm belief that a sustainable model addresses a gap in the market and will disrupt the industry’s big players.

“There are only three or four major brands who have held major positions in the market and Perry wants to really shake things up,” Big Richard’s marketing manager, Leena Beker, says. “The industry hasn’t seen many disruptors coming in that our sort of ethical model.”

According to Beker, the brand’s ethically sourced biodegradable packaging and 100 per cent natural rubber processes will also connect better with today’s environmentally-savvy millennials.

“I think millennials are growing up knowing they can choose products in line with their values and are actively seek out those brands that are taking sustainability seriously,” she claims. “We feel it’s really important for our brand to speak to millennials, as they’re becoming more and more eco focused. Sustainability is part of our philosophy and we’re going to do it for as long as it makes economic sense.”

ecostore's CEO and co-founder, Malcolm Rands, says customers value the company's transparent and sustainable supply chain
ecostore's CEO and co-founder, Malcolm Rands, says customers value the company's transparent and sustainable supply chain

Stripping it bare in beauty and skincare

With cosmetic packaging accounting for nearly half of the world’s landfill mass, more and more beauty brands are becoming strategic in their sustainable practices.

“A staggering 70 per cent of cosmetics packaging ends up in landfills that aren’t even fully used, often because the wrong product was ordered,” Adorn Cosmetics’ founder, Briony Kennedy, says. “Adorn is proudly one of very few brands globally in the $500 billion cosmetic industry, that offers a sampling program, which allows testing of products first before committing to the full size, solving the problem of unfinished products ending up in landfills all over the world.”

According to Kennedy, the brand has led the way innovating sustainable initiatives to reduce the cosmetic industry's carbon footprint and protect the planet since its inception in 2009. It also became the first beauty brand globally to offer ecoluxe refills, directly reducing the amount of packaging that ends up in landfill each year.

“We’ve taken all available steps to make women proud to choose Adorn Cosmetics, from pioneering eco refills, to sustainable packaging, not using excess outer boxes that just end up in landfill, and providing samples so customers can try before they buy,” she explains. “Adorners are eagerly encouraged to recycle their beautiful Adorn pots with refills, saving the environment while also saving money.”

LUSH cosmetics also prides itself in leading the way as a sustainable brand, with Peta Granger highlighting the ‘stripped back’ look of a sustainable product a signature BRAND look that sets it apart while adding value to a customer’s instore experience.

“We have stripped away the packaging and put larger numbers of highly knowledgeable staff on the shop floor, to bring back the art of conversation and specialised service,” she says. “We constantly strive to invent products with little need for packaging and sell more than 100 products naked – which means unpackaged– so customers can pick them up and put in a paper bag or their own bag.

“Naked products are all solid and include bath bombs, massage bars, solid hair care and skin care bars. LUSH also pioneered the solid shampoo bar which requires no packaging at all and lasts up to 80 washes, replacing 3 bottles of 250ml plastic. Negating the existence of plastic in our products, effectively lessens our contribution to landfill.”

LUSH's stripped back 'naked' sustainable product displays enhance the inshore customer experience, director Peta Granger says
LUSH's stripped back 'naked' sustainable product displays enhance the inshore customer experience, director Peta Granger says

According to Granger, LUSH is transparent about everything it does and is a shining example that it’s possible to be both a sustainable and profitable business.

“Sustainability is about looking more broadly than the impact of what you’re doing in the moment and instead look at what we can be doing to re-generate and repair the damage we’ve done from exploiting land, people and resources over the last 100 years,” she says. “We try to apply this kind of thinking to all our decision making and plans for the future.”

Another cosmetics brand using minimal box-free packaging, recyclable containers and ethically sourced ingredients, is Indah. Its founder, Teisha Lowry, is also an official ambassador for the Borneo Orangutan Survival Association, a role which sees her actively campaign against the widespread use of unsustainable Palm Oil in beauty, personal care, food and household products

She says it’s not just about stripping back the packaging, but also about cutting out the ‘marketing nonsense’ in the cosmetic industry.

“Our consumer is the most important member of our community and we always aim to give them an unforgettable experience from start to after sales care,” she says. “But over the last few years, we have come to recognise that our customer is inundated with more and more beauty brands and products targeted at problems we didn’t even know we had.

“So we do not deluge with marketing nonsense – it’s about simplicity and making room for more of what matters. Most of our products are double duty, which simplifies your beauty regime and your life.

“There’s so much mistrust among consumers about what brands are really doing, but we lay it all out there and practice what we preach. Indah is bare and real and our customers know what they’re getting and they love that. They know they’ve purchased a product from a brand that really cares. That feeling they get is invaluable and makes them feel much closer to the brand.”

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