Just five years ago I was leading product development for a better-for-you brand called Golazo. At that time, the industry crisis was around sugar, diabetes and obesity. A lot of scary reports about diabetes and obesity were making headlines, and a New York Times article was circulating about how sugar was basically the new cigarette. Sugary products yielded to no-sugar flavored sodas like La Croix and Bubly, and adult sodas like Seattle’s own Dry Soda and healthier drink categories like kombucha. Calorie information appeared on ready-to-drink packaging. The FDA label was simplified. The market shifted.
I believe the sugar crisis is nothing compared to what’s coming on climate. The climate-driven marketplace shift is going to hit consumer goods faster than a Venetian can strap on wading boots.
A lot has been said about millennials and how they bundle values into their purchase decisions. They care about the planet, and 75% of them are buying more sustainable products. Millennials have a lot of other things to worry about, like college debt, a livable wage and whether they will ever be able to buy a house.
But for Gen Z, climate change is an existential crisis. A recent Washington Post poll revealed that one in four teens has taken a specific action on climate change, for example, participating in a walkout, writing a letter to their government or attending a rally. Greta Thunberg is calling everyone out and Gen Z is responding.
Some brands have gotten the memo.
Blue Bottle coffee company announced it will be zero waste by 2020. Want to try that single-origin El Salvador Kilimanjaro coffee? Better bring your own cup.
In Seattle, there are at least three new grocery-store concepts like Scoop Marketplace that are bulk-only, requiring customers to bring their own Mason jars and cups for things like rice, peanut butter and dish soap.
A new delivery company in California called Ohi is hitting Amazon where it hurts the most, creating an innovative micro-warehouse platform that removes the need for 70% of the packaging that Amazon’s traditional distribution system requires.
For a small monthly fee, Seattle brand Ridwell, partnering with local organizations committed to reducing landfill waste, will take all those hard-to-dispose items like batteries, Styrofoam and light bulbs and find the right place for them.
Project Drawdown, a greenhouse-reversal movement anchored by the programs outlined in Paul Hawken’s breakthrough book “Drawdown,” quantifies the impact and upside of shifts in our food choices. Changes in the type and amount of food we eat, how much we compost and how we farm add up to the single biggest impact on greenhouse gas — a potential reduction globally of 321.9 gigatons of greenhouse gas over 30 years.
My prediction is that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be able to confidently quantify and compare the net C02 impact on individual brands we shop for — either on our smartphone or perhaps even in the form of a “C02 button” on the front of the package. Just as we can compare how many calories are in that soda we’re considering, we’ll be able to compare and vote (with our dollars) for brands that help us to put our words into action on climate change.
As a business leader, how will you position your brand to be better for the planet? As a consumer, how will you align your purchasing decisions with your desire to create change?