Reusable straws, biodegradable coffee cups, and beeswax food wraps are just the beginning.
As more consumers are concerned with the environment, businesses need to shift their supply chains to meet the demands. Sustainable sourcing isn’t just a fad, it’s a cultural change that we’re seeing across the board, regardless of your country or city.
Due to this, customers are increasingly becoming more environmentally aware and conscious about what they buy. They want to reduce their carbon footprint and save money by using products that last. As more people want to take part in fighting climate change, their purchasing habits are changing to match that.
Even amid the pandemic, a survey by Getty Images revealed that consumers’ top concern in 2020 remains to be climate change and sustainability. For example, respondents strongly believe the following habits help our planet positively:
- Recycling (70%)
- Avoiding single-use plastics (60%)
- Using environmentally-friendly products (58%)
- Using renewable energy sources for home power (58%)
With this change of behaviour, data shows that 69% of consumers are actively reducing their carbon footprint, prioritizing it in their life and purchase decisions. That means these consumers are looking for brands who actively embrace sustainability, so now is the time for companies to put sustainability at the forefront. A recent survey even reported that 65% of consumers want to buy from brands that advocate sustainability.
Moreover, developing a sustainable supply chain ensures business continuity, as it lessens financial, social, and environmental risks. Sourcing sustainable materials also provides the continued availability of materials in the long term, protecting the regions and ecosystems we take our raw materials from.
If you’re not sure where to begin sustainable sourcing, this article shows eco-friendly alternatives in three industries for you to consider. Whether they apply to your industry or not, these options offer inspiration for you to begin sourcing according to the consumers’ expectations.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives for the Retail Industry
Over the years, sustainability has been a hot topic in the retail industry. More and more retailers are trying to appeal to customers by emphasizing how their business operates on an environmental level. Doing so encourages customers to be more environmentally friendly while improving the bottom line.
Here are three eco-friendly products brands are switching to so they’re more sustainable:.
1. Recyclable Swimwear
Most regular swimwear is made from petroleum oil-based synthetic materials like nylon, spandex, and polyester. Unfortunately, all of these are non-biodegradable. Since they can’t be recycled, they end up in landfills, polluting our planet for decades.
In response, several companies have already introduced swimwear made out of recycled materials. Two new fabrics being used by fashion brands are:
- Repreve® — A performance fibre from recycled plastic bottles. By using Repreve®, you encourage suppliers to recycle plastic bottles and minimize contributing to the millions of tonnes of plastic waste
- Econyl® — A fabric made out of regenerated nylon composed of items like discarded fishing nets, carpet flooring, industrial plastic, and fabric scraps. Econyl® works exactly the same as virgin raw nylon so it is a good alternative when going sustainable.
On top of that, for every 10,000 tons of Econyl® made, it prevents 57,100 tons of carbon dioxide from getting into the atmosphere and cuts down 70 thousand barrels of crude oil.
Manufacturing high-performance swimwear that is sustainable is possible with the development of these two fibres. Repreve® and Econyl® are results of innovations that create new life out of materials that would have otherwise gone to waste.
Another bonus is that swimwear made out of either Repreve® and Econyl® lasts longer than traditional swimwear made out of non-biodegradable materials. And, of course, they’re also chlorine and UV light-resistant.
2. Eco-friendly Footwear
Over the years, the use of petroleum-based synthetic vegan leather for footwear has increased. Though it’s more animal-friendly, this growth of processing materials uses harmful chemicals and negatively affects our environment.
For example, on average, a pair of sneakers has 65 components and its production produces more than 13 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to keeping a 100-watt light bulb on for a week. This doesn’t even include the harmful production of leather, nylon, synthetic rubber, plastic, and viscose.
Thankfully, we have found alternative materials to create footwear that doesn’t harm our environment. Here are some green alternatives to produce sustainable footwear:
- Alternatives to leather: Chrome-free leather, vegetable-tanned leather, or Piñatex which is an alternative leather made from pineapple leaves.
- Alternatives to synthetic leather: Synthetic leathers are made from plastics like polyurethane and PVC. Good alternatives to this include textiles like jute, hemp, wool, or organic cotton, to use in the liner of your sneakers.
- Alternatives to rubber: Instead of using synthetic rubber to make soles that are made from petroleum byproducts, you can look for natural or wild rubber that can be cultivated to aid against deforestation.
A growing number of shoe companies like Adidas, Nike, Timberland, and Converse have already adapted to these eco-friendly alternatives to produce sustainable footwear.
3. Sustainable Fast Fashion
Fast fashion has come under scrutiny in recent years. By increasing the number of “seasons” in fashion trends throughout the years and selling poorly made clothing that imitates big brands, the fast fashion industry is making a harsh impact on our environment.
Clothes are often low quality, as they can only be worn a few times at the height of a trend. Because of this, the industry is one of the most polluting industries today. Today, it emits 10% of the annual global carbon emissions.
Moreover, the most common fabric used in fast fashion is oil-based polyester, since it is durable, lightweight, and inexpensive. But oil-based polyester produces double the carbon footprint of cotton. Worse yet, it takes more than a century to decompose.
Supply chain managers who work in the fashion industry now need to be more mindful and use eco-friendly production methods. Some are doing this by adopting better methods, such as low-impact dying, upcycling natural materials, and growing organic pesticide-free cotton.
Some sustainable fabrics that businesses can source include:
- Natural and vegan fabrics include organic cotton, recycled cotton, organic linen, and cork.
The production of organic cotton is sustainable as its impact on water pollution is 98% lower than conventional cotton production. Organic linen is also a sustainable alternative to regular linen as its fibres come from the flax plant, one of the world’s most sustainable plants.
- Semi-synthetic fabrics such as lyocell, modal, piñatex, brewed protein (protein fibre from fermenting plant-derived biomass), and apple leather.
Lyocell is made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees to replace viscose and typical rayon. Modal fabric is made from the pulp of birch trees and can be used as a replacement for silk.
- Vegan Synthetic fabrics are products like recycled nylon that are produced from ocean plastic, abandoned fishing nets, and waste fabric and can replace regular nylon. Another example of vegan synthetic fabric is recycled polyester that is versatile, like virgin polyester. That means it can produce clothing like thin, stretchy activewear.
Although recycled polyester will still release microplastics upon washing, it’s still a better choice than virgin polyester, as it encourages plastic recycling.
These eco-friendly alternatives help you create products like clothes and shoes without sacrificing the environment. Choosing these options increases the sustainability and profits of your overall business, satisfying customers who want to be fashionable without harming the planet.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives for the Food Industry
The food industry is continuously improving its practices to become more sustainable.
In fact, 67% of decision-makers in food, beverage, and agriculture agree that actively being more sustainable is better than simply doing no harm. They’re making visible commitments to this belief as well, as 55% of business leaders in the industry increased their investments towards environmental sustainability to make a more resilient supply chain just last year.
To ensure continued profits, businesses in the food industry have to re-evaluate their business models to make themselves more sustainable—all while producing food and beverages for their consumers.
1. Sustainable Food Packaging
An ongoing trend is the use of green packaging. Companies are increasingly adopting the use of compostable or recycled materials to package their products to meet consumer demands, as many are concerned about the products they’re buying, the brands they’re supporting, and the kind of packaging their products have.
The following list shows some sustainable alternatives for food packaging:
- Compostable packaging such as bioplastic made from corn, fibre made from wheat straw or sugarcane stalks, and recycled paper are good alternatives to disposable packaging.
- Single-use plastic bottle alternatives include paper packaging, recyclable aluminum cans, and edible seaweed water pouch.
- Reusable packaging that uses fully recyclable materials—alloy, glass, and engineered plastics.
Food packaging has a significant environmental impact, but restaurants can help. Companies can use less packaging, but choosing eco-friendly materials is a good choice when it’s inevitable.
2. Eco-Friendly Cutleries
Plastic cutlery is the worst as it is flimsy and breaks easily, yet it can take more than a thousand years to fully decompose. Despite this, food-service providers still turn to plastic for convenience, even at its environmental cost.
In fact, Beach-cleanup data revealed that utensils are the seventh most commonly collected plastic item. As a result, animals are often the victims of plastic pollution which also harms our food chain. Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the viral video showing a suffering sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose, not to mention the numerous whales who ended up on shores. When biologists conduct autopsies, they inevitably find out that they died because their stomachs were full of plastics—not food.
Here are some alternatives to disposable cutlery that supply chain managers like you can look into:
- Bamboo utensils are all-natural and antimicrobial and have the strength and durability to last. You can use it to produce a spoon, fork, knife, straws, and chopsticks.
- Compostable cutleries are made from natural materials, such as cornstarch and potato starch. They are biodegradable and can be used as an alternative to the already sustainable metallic cutlery to reduce costs.
- Stainless steel cutlery is a product that is durable even at high temperatures, hygienic, and resistant to rust. Consider using stainless steel 304, which is the most common type of steel to produce kitchen utensils and cutlery.
Disposing of single-use plastic cutlery and using eco-friendly cutleries can reduce the pollution of waterways and prevent endangering wildlife.
3. Locally-Sourced Products
Locally sourcing your products is not necessarily eco-friendly, but it supports the same expectation of consumers towards brands that embraces sustainability and supports local farmers.
The consumer demand for local food surged in 2020 due to the pandemic, with 52% of consumers globally claiming that locally sourced ingredients were important to them. Championing local farmers is now an important issue for customers, with 39% of consumers saying that it’s a huge consideration during purchase—a 12% increase from the previous 27% in 2018.
To remain competitive in the food industry, you have to consider sourcing your products locally to cater to their growing demand. Packaging is no longer the only deciding factor for purchase, so companies need to focus on how sustainable and ethical they are when sourcing ingredients.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives for the Beauty and Personal Care Industry
The beauty and personal care markets are also encouraged to take responsibility in leading the sustainability momentum. Large-scale cooperation and partnerships across the entire supply chain are vital to normalizing sustainable behaviour in this industry.
The beauty and personal care industry generates about 120 billion packaging units annually, and nearly 91% of these are the following:
- Fuel-based bottles
- Plastic waste
These three materials are rarely recycled and end up accumulating in our ocean and landfills. So, here are some alternatives for those in the beauty and personal care industry to consider.
1. Eco-Friendly Toiletries
Sustainable personal care products that contain natural ingredients and produce less waste have become increasingly popular. Here are three leading environment-friendly toiletries that will certainly pique the interest of consumers nowadays:
- Shampoo bars are composed of surfactants that are synthetically made by combining plant oils with water-loving molecules like ammonium and sulphate ions. Plus, they don’t usually come in harmful plastic packaging or bottles.
- Eco-friendly oral care includes bamboo toothbrushes with bristles that are made from castor bean oil and nylon bristles.
- Natural deodorants use coconut oil, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, and recognizable components to replace aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum zirconium.
Consumers know your products can be made cruelty-free, vegan, and use non-toxic materials, or without palm oils. Many now expect it. To go the extra mile, you can also create thoughtful packaging that minimizes non-recyclable materials.
2. Natural Cosmetics
Consumers using beauty products such as skincare and make-up are also starting to look for healthier and sustainable products. The trends of wanting eco-friendly, natural ingredients, and products that do not harm animals are as relevant as ever. As a result, modern cosmetics brands are using more organic ingredients to make their beauty products.
Natural cosmetics are products that contain only natural raw materials, such as:
- Plant or animal origin ingredients. Ingredients from the animal origin for creating natural cosmetics are only sustainable and ethical when doing so does not harm the health or life of animals. Raw materials that come from animals include honey, propolis, lanolin, and milk.
- Raw materials from biotechnological processes. Biotechnology is the application of life sciences to create products or services that are beneficial for humans. Examples of materials obtained this way are kojic acid, hyaluronic acid, and resveratrol.
- Sea components like algae and inorganic salts and oxides from minerals.
With public interest in sustainability continuing to rise, supply chain managers in the cosmetics industry need to turn their attention away from harmful chemicals found within their products. Instead, they should switch towards more natural alternatives.
3. Zero-Waste Skincare Products
Because of how wasteful beauty products have been historically, more consumers have shifted to purchasing zero-waste skincare products. These are products with zero synthetic ingredients that also use less wasteful packaging.
The zero-waste lifestyle promotes the following kinds of products:
- Those that are vegan and cruelty-free
- Those made from ingredients that are ethically sourced
- Those packed in compostable or reusable zero-waste packaging
Some brands that have already embraced zero-waste skin care products include the following:
- Etee offers zero-waste vegan skincare products. An example of their product is their facial cleansing bar made with organic ingredients like olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, mango seed butter, and aloe vera powder.
- Fat and the Moon produces zero-waste skincare for sensitive skin that is vegan which contains ethically sourced beeswax, sunflower oil, and aloe vera.
- Raw Elements manufactures zero-waste sunscreen composed of sunflower oil, green and black teas, coffee beans, hemp seed oil, cocoa butter, mango butter, rosemary oil extract, and beeswax.
Businesses involved in making skincare products must start looking for alternative suppliers committed to the ethical sourcing of raw materials. Others have already begun, so it’s time for your company to follow suit—or risk falling behind.
Sustainable Sourcing for Business Continuity
Businesses can guarantee continued operations and higher profits only when they can meet consumer expectations. With the public’s growing need to be more eco-friendly, companies should then consider switching to sustainable materials to evolve alongside the demand.
It might be difficult, but the list in this article proves how every industry has eco-friendly alternatives to choose from—all readily available to replace your non-renewable materials and maintain product quality.
To start your journey towards sustainability, focus on what you source at the start of every supply chain. All over, supply chain managers are sourcing sustainable materials that are good for the planet, satisfying for the consumers, and excellent for business continuity and growth.
And if your business isn’t already, then it’s time to join them.
Good for Life has a network of sustainable suppliers for all industries. Our experts can shift your company to sustainable sourcing by partnering with the right suppliers to attract the consumers of today.
Contact us to start sourcing sustainably!