The evolution of sustainability: where we predict brands will go in 2020

Sustainability has been a big deal for a long time, but there’s more pressure than ever for brands to take it seriously.

The U.N. has issued dire warnings two years in a row about the devastating effects of climate change that we’ll face if we don’t make drastic changes, fast.

Plus, both Millenials and Gen Z — who together account for nearly $350 billion in spending power in the U.S. — now demand sustainable business practices in exchange for their loyalty.

It’s no longer enough to “green” a product by using recycled or responsibly-sourced materials; sustainability has become table stakes, and those who sidestep their environmental responsibilities will quickly become as irrelevant as BlackBerry. Forward-thinking brands who want to stand out have to push the bounds of what’s possible.

Here are three emerging trends we predict we’ll see more of in 2020.

Focus on Local

First, it was eat local, then it was buy local. Now companies are cultivating supplier relationships that support local communities. Madewell’s Hometown Heroes Collective gives local artisans and makers from all over the U.S. a chance to grow their businesses by selling their products on madewell.com, and IKEA partnered with London designer Tom Dixon to design an experimental model for urban farming in the hopes of spurring more people to take it up.

Transparency

There is no sustainability without transparency since true sustainability requires understanding the full impact of a company’s value chain, from manufacturing to marketing. Danone/Dannon releases a report that shows their successes as well as shortfalls in striving for a net-zero carbon footprint. Chipotle launched the Young Farmers program to ensure an ample supply of meat and dairy that meets their “food with integrity” guidelines, including the responsible use of antibiotics and giving animals room to roam. Farmers under 40 who meet these standards get seed money and three-year contracts.

Zero Waste

This is one for brands that are looking for a stretch goal. While few companies will hit net-zero, more and more are trying to cut waste as much as possible. Adidas has pledged to use only recycled plastics in shoes and clothing by 2024. MAC takes the empties customers bring back and turns them into pencil sharpeners and other beauty tools, and Nestlé has created the first recyclable candy bar wrapper.

At Hunt, Gather we’re trying to up our sustainability game by focusing on reducing and recycling. It’s easy enough to say no to ketchup packets or plastic utensils and stash reusable bags and coffee cups in the car (and publicly shame tribe members who don’t). And we welcome partnering with clients like Chipotle who continue to push sustainability forward and do their part to create a better world.

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