Electrolux: Changing the sustainability conversation with gen Z

Electrolux talks through the big sustainability decisions that are now giving it the authenticity to communicate differently with generation Z

Derek Haley
Derek Haley

Any business that has been around for more than 100 years must know a thing or two about being sustainable, at least in the traditional sense of the world.

For Electrolux, the desire to still be here 100 years hence has seen the company also embrace sustainability in its more modern sense. But despite its appliances having gained a reputation for energy efficiency, A/NZ director of operations and acting general manager, Derek Haley, said the company has not been as effective as it needs to be in communicating its sustainability credentials to the world.

The investments Electrolux has been making in operations and design have brought it to a point where it’s time the market heard Electrolux’s sustainability story much more clearly.

“There are a lot of companies that are talking about sustainability,” Haley told CMO. “We are now getting to the point where we can show we are acting and delivering a result. And that is when the whole conversation can change.”

To date, Electrolux’s actions include installing 7500 solar cells on the roof of its Adelaide factory, and commencing construction of a 20,000 square metre six-star energy rated warehouse in Ravenhall, on the outskirts of Melbourne. This facility will receive 80 per cent of its power from renewable sources. Haley said the company is also rolling out solar generation capabilities at other facilities.

In addition, the company has undertaken initiatives such as recycling all packaging that comes into the organisation, including the expanded polystyrene that protects goods in transit. Electrolux also breaks down and sustainably disposes of returned products that have reached the end of their life. This program has led to Electrolux setting an objective of sending zero waste to landfill from its Adelaide facility.

“The commitment is that by 2030 that all of our manufacturing operations will be climate neutral, and that by 2050 our entire supply chain and factory operations will be climate neutral,” Haley said. “We want to really get that messaging out there as a competitive difference, and then challenge our competitors to come with us. This is not something we want to own on our own. If we can lead this and show it is important to everybody, then the whole industry should come with us. We are the market leaders in this space, so we have a moral obligation and we have the opportunity.”

While many initiatives have been driven from operations, Haley said this philosophy extends deeper into the organisation.

“That is also coming through a lot of our product design,” he said. “How do we make things last longer? How do you care for your clothing in a better way?”

In 2020, Electrolux launched the ‘Make it last’ campaign, which includes a promise to make clothes last twice as long with half of the environmental impact. Similarly, its Better Eating program aims to improve the nutritional value of what people eat but has also seen Electrolux redesign its refrigerators to keep food fresh for longer. These initiatives are in addition to ongoing work to reduce energy consumption.

“If you get the temperature right and the humidity right your product will last so much longer, and then you throw away less,” Haley said.

Haley said much of this work, and the reasons for wanting to communicate it, are directly tied to the company’s ambition to better connect with younger generations, both as customers and as potential employees. This includes the recent announcement of a program to invite representatives from generation Z to join a global innovation hub to help Electrolux better understand their perspectives on better living practices.

“If you want to engage with that generation you need to talk about the things they are interested in, both now and into the future,” Haley said. “They are going to inherit this planet from us, so how do we make sure that we are making the right decisions for them now?

“You need to be able to deliver quantifiable and results in this world. And that’s what people, from a talent and a consumer perspective, are going to be attracted to.”

Having put in the effort from an operations perspective, Haley said the goal now is to more effectively communicate achievements.

“Most people don’t know that we have a significant manufacturing facility in Australia, let alone that it has 7500 solar cells on it, or that you save significant amounts of transport miles by not shipping goods from other parts of the world - we haven’t got this message out well,” he said.

“You can’t be sustainable for the long term from a financial perspective if you are not looking after the world you are in. We have just had our 100-year anniversary. If we want to be here in another 100 years, we need to act across the world in this way.”

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