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We look at the UN’s sustainable consumption Sustainable Development Goal
The Green Consumer & Sustainable Consumption
In recent months we have seen a conscious change in the way many life essentials products are packaged. News articles, documentaries and global environmental movements are highlighting plastic pollution, declining air quality and shrinking animal populations. They are now beginning to spark changes in consumer lifestyle choices. One of the bigger moments in the UK is David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, creating a cultural paradigm shift around plastic pollution. A direct response is seen in the sales of reusable coffee cups and water bottles, plastic straws are now banned in many restaurants and brands like Coca-Cola are using packaging made from recycled materials. Green consumers are now ‘voting with their wallets’ and choosing brands whose values align with their own. These brands have social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards – all elements embedded in sustainable consumption and production.
According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable consumption is defined as:
‘Sustainable consumption and production is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all. Its implementation helps to achieve overall development plans, reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.’
I shop therefore I am
The UK has staggering levels of consumption, which have a major impact on the environment and biodiversity. There is a direct link between consumer spending, natural extraction, and production output on water, energy, and land usage. Large scale unsustainable consumption and production is one of the driving forces behind our changing climate. Businesses need to understand consumption as not only the act of purchasing but also acknowledging, understanding, and consenting to the practices used during production. For the consumer, it is the act of reducing waste by using products for their whole life before identifying the best disposal route.
As a society, we have level of understanding of the damage done by our “throwaway culture” and are now more likely than ever to pay extra for eco-friendly or sustainable products. Consumers feel more responsible for the future of our planet; however, the majority also feels that more responsibility should lie on with manufacturers or production bodies.
Furthermore, sustainable consumption has become a core policy objective within the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Strategy and there is a growing awareness that businesses play a vital role in promoting more sustainable patterns of consumption.
Sustainable business practice
As a result, companies are now responding to the changes in spending patterns and understand that the consumers themselves are the biggest levers of sustainable consumption. These companies are making cultural and production changes within their organisations, by installing large-scale and tangible behaviour changes. The changes are proactively implemented by: creating sustainable policies; using sustainable procurement; and reviewing their product portfolios, gearing towards sustainable consumption.
- Reducing the environmental impact of production methods
- Integrating sustainability into supply chain
- Strengthening relationships with suppliers
- And developing products that helps consumers reduce their own carbon foot print
- Enabling consumers to buy ethically manufactured products
Companies who neglect to embrace the changes may ultimately find that their products become less relevant to consumers. The most successful companies will be those that guarantee transparency, honesty and sustainable production. Both consumer and business, have to understand that the promotion of sustainable consumption translates into the conservation of the environment and biodiversity.
Bywaters – sustainability at heart
At Bywaters we take sustainable consumption very seriously – through our sustainability and social initiatives – we always seek to manage resources wisely, prioritising reduction and reuse over recycling. We try to create a strategy that values social leadership, innovation and wellbeing as a way to build a better future. One of commitments is to reduce our Co2 emissions by 5% year-on-year (through our Planet Mark Accreditation), and to become Net Carbon Neutral by 2023. CO2 is the largest contributor to climate change, and one of the most detrimental operational side-effects facing our service.
As a business we like to promote sustainability through community engagement and education. We conduct bi-annual seminars, hosted at client sites, to bring our partners together to discuss sustainability initiatives and commercial strategies that actively improve our environmental performance. Our last seminar focussed on the impact of surplus food, with speakers from Too Good to Go (an online application targeted at redistributing excess food from retailers to customers), Elysia (a catering company which utilises surplus food for commercial catering events) and Bywaters’ charity partner, FoodCycle (a community initiative centred on tackling loneliness, by using surplus food to feed community members and encourage social engagement).