Sustainability: the big changes you’d least expect


To say that sustainability is a hot topic is an understatement – today we’re all aware of the  effects of climate change and plastic waste.

But while more of us are trying to make better choices in an effort to save the planet, it can feel as if anything we do as individuals is just a drop in the ocean. Increasingly, we’re looking to the brands we buy to lead the way and help us to live more sustainably.

The question is, can brands react fast enough and radically enough to keep up with their increasingly eco-conscious customers?

For inspiration, we take a look at the most unlikely brands making transformative efforts to become more sustainable
– because if these brands can do it, anyone can.

The local take-away turned vegan

Vegans are on the rise (in the UK there has been a 350% increase since 2006, according to the Vegan Society). This is largely due to environmental concerns, prompted by recent studies that suggest going vegan is the most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint.

While many supermarkets and food brands are catering to vegans with new products and ranges, we love the story of small, family-run business Sutton & Sons, who have taken a more radical approach.

The owners have been running traditional fish and chip shops in London for over 20 years but as customer lifestyles have changed, they’ve changed too. In response to a local demand for vegan food, Sutton & Sons made their Hackney branch completely vegan, offering seaweed-marinated banana blossom instead of fish, and ‘prawn’ tempura made from potatoes.

Honourable mention: Greggs

Selling out as soon as it launched, the Greggs vegan sausage roll caused quite a stir earlier this year. Although only a single product, it did much to promote veganism in the mainstream, breaking down stereotypes of ‘sanctimonious vegans’ by proving that they like cheap, greasy baked goods as much as the next British person.


The fashion icon saving water

Levi’s is synonymous with timeless jeans built to last. But in the wake of high profile documentaries about the impact of denim manufacturing, the iconic brand has been compelled to boost its green credentials.

By innovating new production techniques that use less water, Levi’s has saved 1.8 billion litres of water and recycled more than 129 million litres. Plus, it shouts this message loud and clear (in the recent BBC documentary ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’, Levi’s was the only brand willing to speak in front of the camera), highlighting itself as a leader in sustainability and proving that it can be a sustainable option for customers.

Honourable mention: H&M

H&M might be one of the world’s biggest fast fashion retailers, but it’s showing a growing awareness of sustainability: 57% of all its materials are now recycled or sustainably sourced and the plan is to make this 100% by 2030.


The plastic product going eco friendly

As a controversial plastic product, water bottles are second only to straws, and they could soon become more socially unacceptable than tobacco plastic bottles bans are being introduced everywhere from American universities to Glastonbury festival.

Evian has reacted by promising to use 100% recyclable plastic by 2020. It’s an ambitious target (set in 2018), but Evian needs to be ambitious if it is to justify its product in an increasingly plastic-free world.

To this end, Evian has tapped innovative designer/entrepreneur Virgil Abloh to be its Creative Director and together they have launched a limited edition, refillable glass bottle. With more ‘stylish and collectable items’ in the pipeline, it looks as though Evian is preparing itself for a future where plastic bottles bans are the norm.

Honourable mention: Lego

The most beloved plastic-centric brand in the world says that the majority of its toys and packaging will be made from sustainable materials by 2030. Lego has also launched a range of toys made from sugar-cane, and switched all its energy to renewable sources.

The new radicals

Sustainability is no longer the remit of brands known for their ethical credentials. As the examples above show, all kinds of brands are able to take a radical approach – and soon, as the effects of climate change become even more tangible, anxious consumers will expect nothing less.



Sean Dwyer

VM & Design Show 2019: Innovating in store messaging

Plastic fantastic

This year at the VM & Design Show, we were on the lookout for materials and tech that could be used to innovative in-store messaging. Because as much we love great design, if it’s not saying anything, it’s not adding value for customers.

From foam words to submerged letters, we went away with more than a few ideas about getting our message across. Take a look at what we found…

Plastic fantastic

In store, 3D design often serves a novelty purpose, but Floreeda’s clever use of coloured plastic and LED lights gave us a new perspective. It’s a fresh way of establishing messaging hierarchy, giving designers more to play with than weight and 2D placement.

We also loved Floreeda’s plastic letters submerged in trickling water, which reminded us that words aren’t the only way to communicate a message. Why use words to say that a product is waterproof, or refreshing, when you could just submerge it in water instead? Customers will get it instantly.

It’s worth noting that Floreeda use a recycled acrylic called Greencast, so it’s suitable for retailers trying to be more sustainable.


Digital in motion

If real water isn’t your thing, you could always cheat – we loved the realism of Alchemy’s digital displays.

Whereas flashy, fast-moving digital can often be distracting in a retail environment, Alchemy’s transparent displays (which tricked us into thinking we were looking at real water, just for a moment) were eye-catching but not overwhelmingly so.

It’s a great example of disruptive tech that doesn’t disrupt the shopper from their mission; in store, we’d be a captive audience for any messages floating across these screens.

Playing with words

Foam letters are often used at retail events to spell out hashtags, or event names. But when we saw Cutfoam’s laser-cut foam work, we instantly thought of in-store messaging. Light and easy to move around, the foam letters could be used by retailers to constantly switch up their store, both as on-brand messages and as helpful navigation.

As an added bonus, it can all be recycled; Cutfoam will collect and upcycle pieces when they’re no longer needed. Fun, portable and green: what’s not to like?

VM and Design Show

Multidimensional messaging

Our main takeaway from the VM & Display show? Retail is a 3D environment, so messaging shouldn’t be confined to 2D. Forget bold fonts – how about highlighting messages kinetically and tangibly, with moving water? And instead of functional navigation, why not make it fun, Instagrammable and memorable?

Some retailers are already well known for doing all this, but with so much exciting tech now more accessible than ever, smaller retailers (with smaller budgets) can afford to think outside the box too.

While it’s always important to get the messaging right, sometimes it’s not just what you say that matters, it’s the way you say it.



Sean Dwyer

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