Positive Thought Seven: Define your products’ contribution to the 9 billion challenge

Even once you know your product story, remember that it only applies to today.

Lets develop that story further. Answer the following question:

What is your products’ contribution to helping create 9 billion quality and sustainable lifestyles by 2050?

Where are you making sustainable lifestyles more likely to happen? Where are you making them harder to happen because of your by-products or inefficiencies in your supply chain?

Remember those Halloween products? Does a plastic witch’s hat make it easier for us to achieve 9 billion sustainable lifestyles, or harder?

Halloween supports manufacturing and retail jobs, and is a significant retail event, but does that balance with the its contribution to 9 billion sustainable lives? When many of us were children in the 1950s and 60s, we made Halloween costumes and cakes with our parents. It was a two or three hour interaction: cutting up a cornflake packet to make a mask, which we then threw away at the end of the day. What Wal-Mart and others are making us do is go into Wal-Mart to buy Halloween costumes, sweets, baskets; all in sacks. Parents say “there you are kids, put that on!” And then we wonder where the disconnect between parents and their children comes from. Buying plastic Halloween masks made in China has an impact on our supply chains, on our planet, and on our relationships. Is this what we intend?

In the UK, outdoor heater sales dropped when retailers were challenged on the simple question: “what is the point of outdoor heating?” If it is too cold to sit outdoors, wear a jumper: that was the logic of the challenge. Don’t tempt us with gas guzzling products to help stay outside for just a bit longer.

Many of us have seen a certain Coca Cola campaign. It shows a bottle of Coca Cola with the slogan “open happiness” – implying that happiness can be had by drinking a bottle of Coca Cola. Does that really make 9 billion sustainable lives more achievable? Or harder? Coca Cola, however, are also launching new brands (such as health drinks), and using these brands to encourage exercise – that has a very different and (many would argue) useful contribution.

Every product story should be aligned with making it easier for the world to deliver 9 billion sustainable lives, and with reducing, or even eliminating, elements that make it harder.

How do businesses do more? Think about this as a challenge, especially when market research shows that, while customers want a more sustainable lifestyle, they do not necessarily rush out and buy every eco-labelled product, preferring instead to stick to the brand and price points and short-term needs from the products they seek.

The answer is simple – you work with that preference rather than trying to change it. Customers do not seek out safe products , they expect them. Likewise, they expect their favourite brands and retailers to make these difficult decisions and judgements for them. Sustainability is less a customer choice more a customer service – sustainable products are best delivered by ’choice editing’.

Rethinking Corporate Sustainability – If Only We Ran the Planet Like a Shop! (374.8 KB)