Getting sustainable: Small steps brands are taking now

Two months in to 2018, and consumer demand for sustainable, ethically-sourced products continues to rise- and it’s time for brands to act.

A shift towards sustainability comes not just from an environmental need, but a financial one too, as consumers begin to distance themselves from brands and businesses that aren’t on board.

Whilst the idea of a sustainable overhaul seems daunting, this challenge presents plenty of opportunity-  and a lot of them are at a small, actionable level.

It’s encouraging seeing new brands grow from the ground-up with sustainability at their core. However, what’s exciting us most here, at WGSN, are the small, considered steps that big brands are taking on the path to sustainability.

Associate Editor Alice Gividen picks out three examples who are setting the precedent.


1. & Other Stories


Sat within the H&M group, high street retailer & Other Stories are ‘gradually expanding [their] environmental goals’.

Their recycling program is a simple yet effective arm of the brand’s effort to operate sustainably- and it’s one that plenty of brands could instill.

To recycle & Other Stories’ beauty packaging, for instance, consumers need only bring back empty containers to any store and, in exchange, receive a voucher for 10% off a recycled purchase.

& Other Stories also partner with I:CO, a company that collects used clothing and shoes and carefully sort through them to either reuse or recycle – ‘ensuring maximum reutilisation of these valuable materials’.

Thanks to this partnership, consumers can donate unwanted clothing from any brand, also in exchange for a voucher, ready for them to be recycled, up-cycled or even end up as stuffed toys or carpet underlay.


2. Starbucks

Despite consumer outrage back in 2016 at the revelation that Starbucks takeaway cups are actually non-recyclable, the company is making headway on finding a solution.

The inner polyethylene liner used in the cups makes them hard to recycle. As an alternative solution, Starbucks are focusing on simply incentivising customers to use their own. Every time customers bring their own cup into a Starbucks chain, they’re given a 25p discount.

In February 2018, Starbucks began to trial a 5p charge on takeout cups in 35 stores across London, to find out whether it could reduce consumer use of takeout cups. Set to last three months, proceeds from the trial will be donated to Hubbub, an environmental charity and behavior change experts.

Time is needed to see the impact of the 5p charge, but it’s encouraging to see Starbucks addressing the problem and opening up the conversation around sustainability.


 3. Co-op ‘green’ tea


Using polypropylene to help teabags hold their shape is an industry-wide method. Consequentially, tea bags aren’t wholly biodegradable. Whilst only a small amount of plastic per bag, it amounts to considerable plastic waste caused by the UK’s favourite beverage.

This month, The Co-op has announced a fully biodegradable tea bag- making it ‘the first retailer to find a solution’ to this waste. It’s a move that could save nine tonnes of plastic every year from being dumped into household rubbish and compost collections.

The Co-op has joined forces with Ahlstrom-Munksjö, specialists in sustainable fibre solutions, to develop the new method of heat sealing bags which will eliminate the use of plastic from the process.

It’s currently under rigorous testing, but should be on shelves later this year- and sets the precedent for other tea companies to follow suit.


For more insight and inspiration, head to the sustainability section on WGSN.

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