The retail industry has no shortage of dirty secrets. Did you know, for instance, that it’s the second most polluting industry on earth, outdone only by oil? Or that 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill every year [WRAP ‘Valuing Our Clothes’]?
With the transparency of open data, social networks and mobile tech, awareness of such issues is at an all-time high and today’s empowered, informed consumers are demanding brands act with more integrity and responsibility. They are gravitating toward companies that have social good engrained in their mission, with a third of UK consumers claiming to be very concerned about issues regarding the origin of products.
Crucially, they are also prepared to dig deeper to support ethical brands: 55% of online consumers across 60 countries said they are willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact (Nielsen, 2014).
We believe simple ‘greenwashing’ and token CSR [corporate social responsibility] marketing gestures are no longer sufficient. Thanks to the aforementioned technologies it’s far easier for people to know which businesses are simply paying lip service to ethical behaviour, and which are genuinely living these values.
“In this increasingly transparent, digital world, authenticity is everything,” says Endaba’s founder, Lynette Deutsch. “Businesses need to write conscious social and environmental values into all their activity, from sourcing to purchase, and clearly demonstrate these through all strategic decisions. Think concrete actions, not just PR hot air.”
From a more sustainable supply chain to employee rights and waste reduction, it’s a broad matter in which brands need to take a holistic, long-term view and have a clear awareness of purpose.
So, which businesses are practicing what they preach successfully?
In our experience – and as these examples show – building a community defined by solidarity and dignity for all members does go hand-in-hand with exceptional performance, enhancing efficiency as well as inspiring more trust and loyalty in its customers.
It’s time to ask, how can your business do better by its people and the world around it?