I’m always asked — is all this eco-friendly talk just a fad? Is this something that will remain relevant in future or will all the excitement around it also pass? My answer has always been the same — eco choices are here to stay — not only because they are smart for you and the planet now, but because they are the right moves for the future generations as well.
For the longest time it was the quirky small companies that wrote great stories about where they got their ingredients or raw materials from, or about how they employed underprivileged women. Eco-chic was a small boutique market with niche clientele that appreciated these labels. Today the movement is about moving as many masses as possible. There’s a lot of confusion about what is wrong or right and the spectrum of running a ‘sustainable’ business can be so wide it can be difficult to ascertain which ones are truly game changers. For example, a café that sources fairly traded coffee can call itself sustainable, as can a café that uses organic wheat flour — for it is very hard to work out what is really going on and can be confusing while making an eco-choice from a small label.
Today, the market is flooded with big brands that are touting sustainability as their new motto. The number of socially conscious consumers is growing and therefore it has become more important for big businesses to attract them, too, according to a study by consultancy firm Accenture. Ralph Lauren made a media splash by announcing their plastic bottle shirt. Other brands like Levi’s have been advertising PET recycled-denim wear for a few years. There is awareness and therefore a growing market that’s making big players join the sustainability bandwagon.
When faced with such global giants as competition, this starts becoming a difficult and big challenge for smaller social enterprises. In many cases these smaller businesses could be creating employment for women from rural India or making boutique clothing from organic cotton. To keep their competitive edge, social enterprises will need to innovate with new products, services and ways of doing business that cannot be replicated by big companies, which are generally slower to act due to their large setups and bureaucracy.
For big businesses too this is not just a marketing exercise. They are seen investing and making long term commitments toward their sustainability goals. They are inherently changing their practises as well as talking about it, making them a very compelling proposition for the end consumer. So whether it is a big or small business — seeing companies embracing sustainability — whether it is being earth, resource or people friendly — is a paradigm shift that is currently underway. Being Eco-chic is not a fad, it is a feel good way to live that is here to stay.