Household brands and retailers will play a key role in supporting sustainable lifestyles, helping them become mainstream by 2020, according to a new study.
Sainsbury’s and Unilever launched the Consumer Futures 2020 research in partnership with Forum for the Future, in order to gain insight into how sustainable products and services will impact on global trends and consumer behaviour over the next decade.
As part of the 18-month study, designed as a practical tool to help retailers, brands and manufacturers plan for the future, four fictional scenarios that consider how sustainable consumption could become mainstream were explored, with the aim of ascertaining whether social and environmental pressures drive sustainable goods into the mainstream, or whether consumers actively demand them.
It found that global challenges such as climate change, scarcity of key resources, rapid population growth were likely to affect consumer attitudes and the consumer goods industry. As a result, sustainable practices will become more mainstream as key resources become more highly valued, while and recycling and re-use would increase, the study concluded.
A weak global economy is unlikely to hamper the progression of sustainability, according to Forum for the Future’s chief executive Dr Sally Uren, who said that “smart brands and businesses will make money today by accelerating the transition to a sustainable future”.
Meanwhile, Dr Uren added that the industry must make it easier for consumers to go green by “offering products and services which are not just better for the environment, but healthier, cheaper and longer-lasting.”
However, the study warned that consumer brands will need to innovate to develop sustainable products, services and business models to overcome financial challenges, while also working with consumers to make them a success.
Sainsbury’s and Unilever said they plan to use the results as a platform for collaboration and innovation to develop jointly profitable and sustainable initiatives to help meet commitments in Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan and Sainsbury’s five corporate responsibility values.
Sainsbury’s chief executive, Justin King, said: “Sustainability will continue to rise higher up the agenda over the coming years, so it is key that brands work to ensure they can respond to consumer demand. Being a sustainable company is not about box ticking, it’s about future-proofing your business and building trust and brand loyalty that will last for years to come.”
The Consumer Futures 2020 toolkit and accompanying resources are available to download free here.