This expectation was hard for brands and retailers to meet then, especially those in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods, or FMCG, sector. Fast forward to 2016/17 and consumers expect all of the above, but with product responsibility and authenticity thrown into the mix. Not only do consumers want a high quality, high performance product, they also want sound sustainability credentials to accompany their product choice.
The CRT will work to assist business models to penetrate new sustainable quality products into the FMCG sector through development from concept to deployment into the retail market. With sustainability at the core of a functional FMCG market, the CRT will work with partner groups to ensure key players within the industry can:
- Go beyond the traditional definition of sustainability and its low hanging fruit to adopt more holistic and rounded sustainability practices;
- “Be good by doing good”: have products that are truly sustainable (across multiple metrics), this is not only fundamental to the competitiveness of a company but vital in meeting heightened consumer expectations;
- Incorporate sustainability into business strategies from the bottom up; one way to achieve this is to fully integrate sustainability into the core requirements of research and development and the design process.
Being mindful of the new definition of sustainability
As with consumers’ expectations, the definition of sustainability has also changed. Sustainability does not mean what it used to (i.e. a heavy focus on environmental metrics alone). Rather it is a holistic all-encompassing definition which incorporates both qualitative and quantitative metrics. Qualitative metrics encompass social criteria such as health and well-being whilst quantitative encompasses metrics such as carbon, water, and greenhouse gases, or GHGs. Often in addition to these are less tangible measures such as brand authenticity and values. Those businesses which have been successful to date have been mindful of the changing dynamic of sustainability and integrated these many different elements of the definition into their business practices and values, creating a more balanced and holistic sustainability definition for their business. And whilst social value metrics err towards the qualitative at the current time, the more progressive businesses are seeking more quantitative means that measure the outputs from their efforts, but that’s a different story, for another day.
Sustainability as a driver for research and development
Pushing the boundaries of product development to meet the three dimensional definition of sustainability is often an activity at the core of successful businesses. Examples of success can be found across the FMCG sector, notably with food manufacturers who have pushed the boundaries of product development by substituting ingredients, recalibrating ingredient formulas and changing product portions to make product improvements across both health metrics (saturated fat, salt, and sugar) but also environmental and supply chain metrics such as carbon, water, GHGs and raw material risk.
Authenticity is key
Of those businesses which have integrated the ‘be good by doing good’ philosophy, the most successful have been those which have incorporated the above lessons into the heart of their business, fundamentally realigning or basing their business values on a broad range of sustainability definitions and activities. These businesses have not necessarily promoted the work they are doing, rather they have embedded sustainability to the core of their business and their products. Such businesses demonstrate to their consumers that where possible they will address sustainability issues, alleviating some of the burden and inconvenience often placed on consumers.