Sustainability Goals Will Be Driven by Innovation

Posted: 04/15/2022 - 09:00
Action must be taken now, across businesses of all sizes, to reduce their carbon emissions and remove waste from the supply chain.

Evolving customer needs are influencing business and buying decisions, says Debbie Shakespeare, Senior Director of Sustainability, Compliance, and Core Product Line Management at Avery Dennison RBIS. She makes the case for why action must be taken now, across businesses of all sizes, to reduce their carbon emissions and remove waste from the supply chain.

Consumer attitudes toward sustainability have been intensified by the pandemic. Global lockdowns caused a temporary reduction of industry and transport, and consumers noticed the benefits this had on their environment. As such, the pandemic provided a reckoning moment and spurred hope for the future of the environment. Even as normal activity resumed in Q3 2020, these intentions to implement change remained.

One eye-opening stat from an August 2021 survey revealed that 90% of British consumers plan to buy from eco-conscious brands going forward. This emulates just how dedicated consumers are to making responsible decisions that will benefit the environment in some shape or form, enabling them to live more circularly.

In a report commissioned by Avery Dennison RBIS, conducted with GWI, it was revealed that globally, over 60% of fashion buyers wanted more transparency about where their clothing had come from and how it was made. This report demonstrated how eager consumers are to reduce waste and support more circular models for living.

Further, this consumer survey also found that 62% of global fashion shoppers want brands and retailers to make end-of-life options accessible for their products. As it stands, the majority of brands lose visibility of what happens to a garment when it leaves their store, yet this research helps demonstrate that consumers still hold them accountable, post-purchase. 62% of shoppers said that brands and retailers should make end-of-life options available for their products, with 58% saying that fashion brands should help people mend items and a similar number wanting brand support in re-sale.

It’s no secret that evolving customer needs are what influence business decisions, particularly in retail. Ignoring this focus on eco-consumerism runs the risk of losing otherwise loyal customers who want to live more sustainably. As we saw from 2021’s COP26 coverage, action must be taken now, across businesses of all sizes, to address customer preferences.

The pressure is mounting on businesses to do everything in their power to reduce their carbon emissions and remove waste from the supply chain. Then they must go one step further and educate the public on their achievements and sustainability goals. This is critical. Without this, customers will simply overlook the brand.

Being Held Accountable

Setting sustainability goals requires a new way of thinking, as well as a level of transparency and collaboration across businesses and throughout supply chains. For so long, brands have been accused on greenwashing when they market their sustainability story. Now, they're trying to switch to authenticated data and be more transparent.

The challenge is that when working across a long, complex international supply chain, it’s sometimes difficult to reveal everything, particularly in such a competitive market. The answer will be working together and taking a region-specific approach rather than going at it alone. It is only by bettering one another that we will reach the collective goal. Delivering on sustainability goals requires an adaptation of thinking, for example a focus on doing more with less, or developing innovative new products that will instigate change.

It is innovation that has underpinned Avery Dennison’s deep-rooted ESG strategy, and we recognise that accountability matters. In October 2021, we announced that our emissions reduction targets were approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) as consistent with levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This acknowledgment by the SBTi gives us confidence that we are setting ambitious scopes for emissions reduction targets, as we strive towards net-zero emissions, which we aim to achieve by 2050.

A United Front

As a large, global operation, we truly understand the value that linking with other players, small and large, who are demonstrating a niche industry specialism, has in enabling us to collectively address the issue of sustainability.

Across our RBIS business, we work with countless businesses that specialize in the apparel manufacturing and fashion retail sectors. Together, we can help them take action and actively remove carbon from their supply chains via the use of data and digital tools.

The Time for Change 

Businesses know they must track and report emissions if their sustainability strategies are to be credible. Pioneering brands like Patagonia and Allbirds are leading the way when it comes to enforcing positivity via regenerative agriculture.

Other labels, including Reformation, have demonstrated their commitment to the environment by ambitiously and publicly pledging for climate positivity by 2025, and are on a journey to become “climate neutral certified.”

It is hugely positive to see so many brands realizing the time is now to make a change, and this is soon to be enhanced by mandatory ESG reporting, with new environmental laws imminent around the world. Businesses need to set their own ambitious targets and assess how these can be achieved. This means exploring the potential of new technology and smart ideas, for the good of the planet.

The commitment within the apparel industry to make the change has been achieved. The next step is how we move beyond commitments and talk to a stage of heightened activity. We need decisions, solutions and action quickly, before it is too late.


About The Author

Debbie Shakespeare's picture

While her entire career has revolved around the broader apparel supply chain, Debbie Shakespeare has been driving meaningful and impactful results within the Apparel Solutions division of Avery Dennison for the past decade. As the Senior Director overseeing Sustainability, Compliance and Core Product Line Management, Debbie ensures Avery Dennison is on track to deliver on its 2030 goals and holds suppliers to appropriate environmental and social sustainability standards. She also serves as a sustainability spokesperson to organizations and companies. During her time with Avery Dennison, Debbie has established a Procurement organization within Hong Kong and China, built the Customer Supply Chain, and developed and deployed Avery Dennison’s FSC sourcing strategy. Most recently, she kickstarted the company’s Blockchain pilot. Before her current role, Debbie led the procurement and supply chain organization within Avery Dennison and played a critical role in developing and implementing supplier standards across the company’s complete global supply chain. Originally from the UK, Debbie currently resides in Boston, Mass. with her family of three.