Over the last few years we’ve seen sustainability climb the corporate ladder, to the point where many companies have put it at the heart of their business strategy.
Justin Leavenworth is the new UTZ Global Markets Director. With 20 years of experience in strategic business growth and transformation, he will focus on leading UTZ’s relationships with companies around the world, helping them to put sustainability at the core of their business practices. We asked Justin to share his top 4 trends in corporate sustainability.
1. “We’ve reached the tipping point”
We’ve got to the point where nobody can bury their head in the sand on the issue of sustainability.
Take climate change for example. It’s been on the agenda for several decades, with awareness steadily growing but commitments thin on the ground. Yet in 2015 a bold new agreement was signed in Paris, and even the USA and China – the world’s biggest polluters and two countries traditionally reluctant to make commitments – have ratified the agreement. The problem is far from solved, but we’ve reached a tipping point where all of the most powerful actors are onboard.
The same trend can be seen in the business world. When I was just starting out in my career 20 years ago, simply having a basic sustainability strategy was something that could mark a company out as an innovator. Not anymore. This is a pivotal moment, where businesses can’t afford not to act. It’s no longer a question of getting ahead but not being left behind.
2. “Away from one size fits all”
There are many different reasons why businesses take action on sustainability – for example, protecting your reputation, securing the supply of your ingredients, meeting your consumer demands. Sustainable sourcing through a credible program like UTZ is a simple way to meet these needs.
But that doesn’t mean that sustainability is as simple as sticking a label on your products. Far from it – this one size fits all approach won’t cut it anymore. Looking forward, what will be ever more important is that companies create a clear, engaging sustainability message around the brand. It must be authentic, and it must be aligned with your brand values and the concerns of your consumers.
Take Nestlé for example: they source huge volumes of UTZ certified cocoa, and they have integrated this sustainable sourcing into their wider ‘Cocoa Plan’. This program also includes aspects that we don’t explicitly focus on within UTZ, such as building schools and distributing higher yielding plants to farmers.
This is a trend that will only increase over the coming years, with more companies taking their own path when it comes to sustainability and, increasingly, using sustainability as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
3. “It’s all about transparency”
Companies may be taking different paths, but there’s one common factor in all successful approaches to sustainability: transparency. In many cases it’s simply not realistic to transform your entire company overnight, and that’s OK, as long as you can demonstrate the progress you are making.
Some choose to make a commitment to reach 100% sustainable sourcing by a certain date, while others report on a ‘triple bottom line’ that takes into account social, environmental and economic results.
This emphasis on transparency is why credible, third party certification programs like UTZ will continue to be the backbone of sustainability in the years to come. With strict standards and a robust assurance system, a sustainability label is a mark of trust.
4. “Sustainability is for all of us”
There are a growing number of consumers who actively change their behavior to purchase sustainable products, doing their research in advance and spending more of their hard-earned cash in special shops or at the farmers market. This must be celebrated – but it must not be the only option.
We all have busy lives, we don’t have the time to research every purchase, and we can’t all afford to spend more. Quality, brand loyalty and convenience are just as important as ever, too. But that doesn’t mean we don’t care about sustainability. In fact, research shows that in fact the vast majority of us care about sustainability.
That’s why we’re already seeing a growing consumer expectation that sustainability will be built in as standard. We expect companies to make sure their products are safe, and in the same way we expect them to do the work for us when it comes to sustainability. We want to buy our favorite products, safe in the knowledge that they were sustainably produced.
This is why UTZ works hard to scale up the supply of sustainable coffee, tea and cocoa, and to keep costs as low as possible. We want to make sure sustainability is for all of us.