Since the launch of World Earth Day in 1970, the grass-roots eco-initiative has achieved mass support from thousands of corporations who have responded to the call to address environmental concerns within their sector.
Over the years, we’ve seen more brands raising the bar in their sustainability efforts — because let’s face it, it’s no longer a ‘nice to have’ but an absolute necessity.
Whilst it’s impressive that businesses are responding, what’s impressive is how they’re responding. Sustainable initiatives are no longer single calls-to-action but have become ingrained into several brands’ operational models.
Retail and the fight against fast fashion
Fast fashion activism has been one of the hottest trends we have seen on the catwalk, gaining significant momentum with major fashion retailers. According to the Economist, 80 billion items are manufactured every year and industry experts are alarmed by the race-to-the-bottom nature of over-producing cheaper products — most of which end up in landfill.
Clothing rental companies like Rent the Runway and Plum are two leading examples of retail brands moving with the times, enabling people to get the latest look without overspill into the wardrobe (or landfill).
H&M Group have also reported that 57% of their materials are now coming from sustainable resources, fighting the problem of fast fashion at source with ethical and fair trading. And in the run-up to World Earth Day, Galleries Lafayette launched its second-hand retail site, Le Good Dressing to drive in-store exchanges of old clothes online.
These brands are banking on these strategies reducing environmental impact and promoting the circular economy while generating greater awareness in the fashion industry.
Electric Vehicles speed up growth for automotive
If there is one sector that needs environmental reform, it’s the automotive industry. A 2010 Nasa report showed that cars were the biggest contributor to climate change. However, certain car brands are leading the charge in new environmental initiatives.
By 2025, Volvo have pledged to use at least 25% recycled plastics in their cars. Last year, they released a beta version of the car, which just this month won a Plastic Recycling Award in the Electronic Product category at the Europe Awards.
We are also seeing an increase in consumer demand for Electric Vehicles (EVs), which is further driving this change. The International Energy Agency predicts that there will be 125 million EVs on the road by 2030 and car giant, General Motors is capitalising on it already. They have recently launched a new factory to revamp its EV effort, which has created over 400 new jobs supported by an additional $300m investment. Although most car manufacturers have staggered their approach into EVs, with this new development, it seems like this is the year automotive brands are merging consumer expectations, sector changes, and their own sustainability objectives.
Tech companies finding the key to green innovation
As tech products level out in terms of new functionality, the key differentiator for these companies will be how they compare in sustainability and their wider environmental impact.
Researchers from the United Nations have reported that tech products now make up the fastest growing item type to be sent to land-fill, with only 20% of products being recycled. In addition to this, research conducted by Greenpeace states IT companies now amount for 7% of the world’s electricity.
Earlier this month Apple announced that it has doubled the number of their suppliers committed to running off 100% clean energy, exceeding its commitment to use four gigs of clean energy in its supply chain by 2020. Microsoft is also doubling-down on its sustainability drive, paying twice as much for its carbon fee and working to ensure its new sites will operate on renewable energy.
Ultimately the common denominator across these sectors revolves around one thing — people. It’s the power of the consumer which is driving this change, with brands across a range of sectors responding to the growing awareness from their consumers. As we consider the impact of initiatives like World Earth Day, it’s evident that brands are making greater strides to change with each sector playing to their strengths.