Given the global pandemic, you might think it’s safe to assume that people have more pressing matters to contend with than the environment. Is it even possible to be sustainable during a pandemic, or perhaps a recession? Looking at 2008, it appears not. Sustainability was put on pause to aid competitive pricing and essentially survival. However, with the momentum the sustainability movement has had over the last few years, it will be harder for brands to ‘opt out’ this time around.
Admittedly from the offset, it does appear that the pandemic has somewhat stalled the sustainability movement. The United Nations has confirmed that Covid-19 has put the Sustainable Development Goals out of reach, which is disappointing news, especially given that most goals to protect the environment by 2030 were already unachievable before this all happened.
Granted, there are other pressing issues at the forefront of society; one of seismic proportions being the Black Lives Matter movement. Nonetheless, this movement indirectly drives sustainable practice. Vogue Business has found that companies with a more diverse leadership have better environmental compliance reporting, in addition to stronger financial returns. It goes without saying that increased empathy and an anti-violent stance radiates out to many other causes.
Whilst it is tempting to overlook sustainability in the face of uncertainty, Brits will not. Imagery illustrating the positive impact of lower levels of Co2 emissions across the world have been circulated widely and consciousness amongst Brits is actually rising. From January to April 2020, there has been a +13% uplift in concern about pollution and +24% uplift in people avoiding unethical brands (IPA TouchPoints). This, coupled with Brits enjoying buying less and a slower pace of life, as our QT showed, could be resulting in greater awareness of our surroundings and the impact we’re having as a consumer.
Proving that sustainability has the potential to gain customers in the long-term. H&M launched their ‘Let’s change. For tomorrow.’ campaign in June, promoting that half of their materials are recycled, organic or sustainably sourced, with the aim for this to be 100% of materials by 2030. Businesses who recognise that sustainability is an important deciding factor for consumers in the long-term look set to be the ones who stand-out from the crowd.
Whilst there’s no escaping the present reality, the effects of climate change are set to ultimately overshadow the effects of Covid-19 in the long run. Whilst it may be tempting for brands to scale back to a bear minimum, sustainability will become a pathway to recovery and resilience.