Earth Day 2021: brands finally understood the assignment


For the last several years, sustainability advocates and activists have gritted their teeth through a series of heavily greenwashed Earth Day launches, press releases and campaigns. That’s not to say some brands weren’t already thinking long-term about the sustainability of their businesses, but those playing in that space didn’t rely on Earth Day as a catalyst for change – they were already doing the work. 

This year we’re seeing much less of the token sustainability initiatives, such as “limited-edition organic capsule collections” or “Shop 20% off our eco-edit!”, and more actual system changes. Brands are moving away from viewing Earth Day as a social media moment and are moving towards creating an opportunity to give transparency to a consumer cohort that’s becoming more sustainably minded by the day.

According to a 2020 global survey by management consulting firm Accenture, 60% of consumers reported making environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic, and nine out of 10 of these consumers said they’ll continue to do so. With that in mind, brands and retailers know they must offer thoughtful and robust sustainability initiatives, both in the products they sell and the businesses they run. Below are the ones that made an impression on us this Earth Day.

Collaboration for good

There’s strength in numbers and brands across industries and markets are coming together to collaborate in the name of sustainability. #Weareallies is an industry-first project led by REN Clean Skincare, along with Biossance, Caudalie, Herbivore and Youth To The People. The beauty brands have committed to share sustainability knowledge across businesses to help reduce overall packaging waste. 

Similarly, sustainable footwear and apparel company Allbirds announced it’s making its proprietary Carbon Footprint Calculator available to anyone or any brand who wants it in an effort to lower the overall carbon footprint of the footwear and apparel industries. The calculator is available on FreeTheFootprint.com and the brand has also launched a Change.org petition as a call to action for the fashion industry to add carbon footprint labels to their products.


Tools to empower consumers

As more sustainable products come to market, consumers must become even more savvy as they navigate greenwashing and hold brands accountable. This Earth Day, new certifications and shopping tools are helping consumers navigate this space. 

Climate Neutral, which certifies companies that offset their carbon emissions on an annual basis, said it will certify 330 companies this year (all will have certification by end of June, but 230 are certified as of Earth Day). Brands range across 12 different industries and include Grain Design Studio, Reformation and Ministry of Supply. Climate Neutral created its own software that enables companies to track their climate emissions on everything from office electricity to corporate travel to e-commerce. 

At Farfetch, the luxury platform launched an updated version of its Fashion Footprint Tool,  which allows consumers to see the potential environmental savings of including more pre-owned purchases into their wardrobes.

Climate Neutral

Waterless formulas

If you’re going to launch an actual product on Earth Day, you’d better be prepared to stand up to the smartphone critics on social media. US-based JOI has launched an oat milk, calling it “the most sustainable plant milk on the market”. The USDA Organic-certified, gluten-free powder is designed to be mixed with water at home and is made of a single ingredient: sustainably sourced oats. What’s more, it’s packaged in a 100% home-compostable pouch and the powder formula cuts down on the carbon footprint generated by shipping liquid milk. 

In beauty, Klorane also launched a new waterless formula. The 2-in-1 Mask Shampoo powder changes to a rich foam when mixed with water, but uses two times less water and 72% less packaging than traditional shampoo bottles. 


To read more about the key stories within sustainability, WGSN subscribers can access the full Sustainability Bulletin: May 2021 right here.

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