Consumer Goods

The proof that customers are buying into sustainability

Whether it’s single-use plastics or the circular economy, we spend a lot of time talking about sustainability these days. One of the indicators that the general public are buying environmentally-friendly products, even when it means spending more and changing purchase habits, is by looking at consumer goods and diving into real data.

According to the Future of Sustainability 2019 report, consumerism in Asia is shifting and becoming more environmentally conscious. The younger generation is recognising the impact of modern lifestyles on the environment, seeing the effect of air pollution and plastic waste. Family-owned businesses are also more prevalent in the region, accounting for 85% of companies, and include some of the largest and most respected organisations in the world. This means that there’s mounting pressure for these companies to invest in sustainable practices and products, demonstrating their commitment to the environment and future generations.

The circular economy has also proved popular in China in particular; rental markets for items such as scooters, bicycles, phone chargers and even clothing have grown vastly in recent years. This demonstrates a movement towards shared and reusable items and away from ownership, over-consumption and potential waste.

Across the world, consumers are changing their purchasing habits in favour for more ethical and green choices—and companies are figuring out how they can keep up with this demand. Unilever is such a company, offering a range of sustainable living brands that have proven popular and are now responsible for 70% of its turnover growth, growing 46% faster than the rest of its business. In 2018, Amcor, which develops and produces forms of packaging used by consumers within the food, beverage, medical and personal care industries, pledged its commitment to develop all of its packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025, while also significantly increasing the use of recycled materials in their packaging.

Consumer goods companies are also banding together to make a real difference in improving processes and technology to minimise their impact on the environment. For instance, nine of Vietnam’s leading consumer goods and packaging companies – Coca-Cola Vietnam, FrieslandCampina, La Vie, Nestlé Vietnam, NutiFood, Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam, Tetra Pak Vietnam, TH Group and URC Vietnam – launched a coalition in June 2019 to drive a circular economy, improve waste management and recycling infrastructure in a bid to reduce their environmental impact. This is particularly pertinent because Vietnam contributes 280,000 tonnes of plastic waste into the ocean every year, making them one of the five largest contributors in the world.

So it appears that while sustainability-marketed products are picking up a larger market share in consumer goods, companies are recognising the value of actively reducing their environmental footprint. This will not only benefit future generations, but will have the consequence of fostering customer loyalty to an ethical brand.

With such a massive and sudden shift in the CPG sector, it’s not surprising that there is increased demand for talented people for roles that didn’t exist a few years ago. This includes roles focused on sustainable procurement and sourcing, transportation efficiency, waste elimination, pollution prevention, ethical manufacturing and eco-friendly food scientists.

We are also experiencing a change in the assessment criteria for talent who are considering new external career opportunities. While salary, job title and succession planning will still remain key components of this process, we’re now also seeing candidates selecting (or withdrawing from) a recruitment process based on an organisation’s sustainability agenda.

Unilever reveals Sustainable Living Brands are driving three quarters of its growth
HBR | Research: Actually, Consumers Do Buy Sustainable Products
Unilever | Sustainable Living Plan continues to fuel growth
Eco Business | Nine consumer goods firms forge recycling coalition in Vietnam
PR News Wire | Growing Interest For Sustainable and Environment Friendly Products
Amcor | Sustainability Report

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