Environmental Activism: The Socio-Political Movement set to be a Key Consumer Trend in 2020

Taking a position of indifference, however well-intentioned, is no longer seen as being enough in the global fight against climate change. Whereas in years gone by, people could comfortably evade criticism and judgement by passively acknowledging the importance of living sustainably to limit the effects of global warming, 2020 will see us all placing more pressure on one another to make decisive lifestyle changes in an effort to minimise our carbon footprints. Single-use plastics, palm oil and so-called ‘throwaway’ fashion amongst others are all set to be rejected with increasing scorn.

Of course, this is a trend which has been gaining traction continuously over the past decade. What with the rise of groups such as Extinction Rebellion calling upon governments across the world to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and with Time Magazine recognising the teenage activist, Greta Thunberg, as it’s ‘Person of the Year’ in 2019, the presence of the urgency surrounding environmental protection in our collective consciousness has grown exponentially.[1]

In the years to come, however, consumers are predicted to place more and more of the onus on retailers. That is, analysts expect shoppers to demand that brands make it increasingly easy for them to make environmentally-friendly choices so as to avoid being met with shaming comments from peers.[2] To remain competitive, brands will need to diversify their market offering by making ranges of ‘greener’ options that are not just widely available but widely accessible to the masses.

But, where can we look to if we want to see examples of brands already taking steps to respond to this movement?

Restaurants and supermarkets.

It’s no secret that plant-based diets have been growing exponentially in popularity. Since documentaries such as Cowspiracy appeared on our screens with sensational messages about the impact of commercial agriculture on the environment, more and more people have been making the choice to eat less meat in an effort to help protect the planet.

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To meet the growing demand for meat-free options, a number of major restaurant chains and supermarkets have launched vegan products. Burger King, for example, has started selling ‘Impossible Burgers’ at 7000 of its locations across the USA (this is a dramatic change from just 3 years ago when exclusive New York eatery, Momofuku, made headlines by being the first restaurant in the world to sell the Impossible patty…solid evidence of widespread shifts towards demands from consumers for brands to facilitate their sense of environmental duty).[3]

Additionally, UK supermarkets have invested heavily in developing larger ranges of plant-based products in an effort to stay relevant and attractive in the eyes of their customers. In the last 6 months, the likes of Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda have all started stocking a greater variety of own-brand vegan foods – proof that the country has a growing appetite for carbon neutral nosh…an appetite on which retailers must capitalise if they are to maintain profit levels.[4]

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Electric cars.

The demand for electric and hybrid vehicles is rising rapidly. Long gone are the days when electric cars were a thing of science fiction, a pipe-dream reserved for the privileged few with access to the finances required to make such an investment. Yes, now more than ever before, making the change from petrol to plug-in is a realistic, achievable lifestyle choice for a growing number of people.

This is proven by the fact that the yearly allocations of more affordable models, such as the Kia e-Niro and the Hyundai Kona Electric, were all purchased in the first few weeks of 2019. Combined with data showing that 135.6% more electric cars have been sold this year compared with last, and the fact that the Tesla Model 3 climbed to top 3 best-selling cars in the UK for the month of august[5], and we can see with absolute clarity that consumer preferences are shifting decisively in favour of more environmentally friendly alternatives.[6]

 

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This is backed up by research[7] conducted by the AA, in which it was revealed that over 50% of young people would prefer to own an electric vehicle than a petrol or diesel equivalent. In statements made following the publishing of these findings, the President of the AA said that “the younger generation in particular are ready to embrace the electric revolution”. And so, it falls to car manufacturers to take action in order to satiate such demands. To retain an image of credibility, ethicality and desirability in the minds of younger buyers (who, as we know, will soon wield the most purchasing power of any demographic), car brands must invest in strategically marketing their eco-friendly initiatives.

Fashion.

The global fashion industry has come under increasing amounts of scrutiny in the last 12 months, both from hard-line environmentalists and eco-conscious shoppers.[8] However, certain brands have already begun to respond to these shifts of opinion by launching ranges of new products that are greener than ever before (that’s green in terms of environmental impact, not garment colour)!

Take Adidas, for example. In 2016, it launched a limited-edition line of trainers made exclusively from recycled ocean plastics however only ever produced 50 pairs. Now, fast-forward just 3 years, and Adidas is now producing 11 million pairs of these shoes annually in order to meet market demand – evidence that the brand is taking active steps to expand its product offering in line with evolving customer habits and preferences.[9]

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Clothes retailer, Zara, has also made headlines in recent months after pledging that all of its products will be made using sustainable materials by 2025.[10] Additionally, it has announced that textile recycling boxes will soon be brought into all of its stores to enable shoppers to donate their unwanted garments so that they can be recycled into new items. Here, we can see that the Directors of Inditex (Zara’s parent company) are aware of the rising demands from shoppers for brands to make it easier for their customers to live in environmentally friendly ways.

Now, all this might leave you in a panic asking “but, what can I do to keep pace with this permanent shift in opinion and stay relevant in the eyes of consumers?”.

At Unibox, we are acutely aware of the growing prominence of these sentiments amongst consumers and so have invested in developing products to help retailers ensure that they can continue to thrive in spite of changing customer priorities. As well as being cost-effective and visually striking, our visual merchandising solutions offer a range of environmental benefits.

All hail aluminium!

It is a little-known fact that aluminium is one of the greenest manufacturing materials available, with more than 75% of the metal ever made still being in circulation today.[11] This comes with no negative effects on quality, though, as aluminium can be re-purposed an infinite number of times without ever degrading or weakening. Ultimately, by choosing aluminium-based merchandising systems, retailers can feel confident that they are upholding their environmental responsibilities and acting in accordance with their audience’s wishes.

Energy-efficient LEDs.

Many brands recognise the advantages of using illuminated displays and animated graphics to enhance product promotions and improve instore navigation. At Unibox, our wide range of illuminated solutions all operate using LEDs which are significantly more energy efficient than halogen alternatives. Therefore, by installing LED-based lighting and displays into stores, brands will be one step closer to meeting the government’s environmental targets and closer to meeting their customers’ expectations.

Minimal material requirements.

Visual merchandising professionals can appeal to shoppers by specifying illuminated lightboxes as opposed to LCD screens when looking to install augmented displays. At Unibox, our Kinetik lightboxes offer eye-catching, animated display options that can be updated alongside changing marketing campaigns without the need for huge amounts of new materials. Entire systems can be reimagined simply by replacing fabric graphics, making them the obvious choice for brands seeking to operate sustainably (and cost-effectively).

As we head further into 2020, Unibox can help you meet changing consumer demands and stand out within competitive markets. To discover more about our range of environmentally friendly solutions, visit our website for comprehensive product information, technical guides, case studies and more.