Focus Live | Encouraging sustainable behaviour by design

29.09.17

Improving sustainability is good for the planet, good for people and good for business. We believe design and innovation has the potential to encourage and improve sustainable behaviour.

When it comes to packaging, technology can help to drive improvements in sustainability, such as light weighting, utilising recycled plastic (PCR), or reconsidering the material completely. Packaging serves a meaningful purpose, it isn’t going to go away. This poses the questions of how might brands truly embrace sustainability as an opportunity for packaging and how might we encourage consumers to change behaviour and close the loop?

To consider these challenging and complex questions, we recently hosted ‘Focus Live’ to coincide with London Design Festival. Bringing together industry experts from Coca-Cola, Unilever, Innocent, ColArt, Shell, and Barilla, the event encouraged an active discussion around the challenges of improving sustainability.

Our guest speaker, Sanjay Patel, Innovation Manager from Coca-Cola, shared how storytelling can support the sustainability agenda. Craig Wightman, Executive Design Director at Kinneir Dufort, shared how we use design research techniques to understand how we might enable behaviour change.

During the evening, several themes emerged:

Storytelling and marketing can drive change.

Be honest and be sincere. More than ever, consumers want to do the right thing. This is particularly true of Millennials and Gen-Z where social media is proactively being used as an enabler to influence change. Brand stories need to be succinct and coherent, as in today’s digital world there is nowhere to hide. Consider all touch points of your brand journey from digital through to physical assets.

What if companies see waste as currency?

Method pioneered packaging recovered from ocean plastic, which connects with their brand purpose and values of doing good. They’ve led a movement. We are now seeing companies utilise waste for products beyond packaging, such as Adidas’ partnership with Parley. Will we see a truly circular economy where packaging is being recovered directly back into the value chain?

Could consumers also see packaging as value?

Sanjay discussed materials offering intrinsic value in how they evolve into a second life, citing glassware as an example. How do we enable consumers to see value in packaging? For example, take the five pence charge for plastic carrier bags in the UK. This has driven a revolution in the number of bags used with an 85% reduction in just one year. As a result, the UK have now embraced the reusable bag. What if we introduced a returnable / recovery scheme for packaging? Thrift is prevalent in developing and emerging markets. How might we adopt a similar attitude in developed markets?

Consider the whole experience – the end is often overlooked but could offer the greatest opportunity.

Understanding the barriers to recycling, reuse, and recovery offers the key to enabling a circular economy. How can we make it easy to encourage people to do the right thing? Something as simple as the encouraging the separation of materials could make a difference. A great example is the Yeo Valley yoghurt pot, which invites consumers to unzip the card sleeve to detach materials.

Looking at complex challenges with a new lens might enable you to reframe the challenge.

We discussed how at Kinneir Dufort we look to blend research methods with design, to create a new point of view. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find new ways to engage and make your brands relevant and compelling to consumers. As a result, it can be insightful to look at problems from multiple points of view. The classic focus group that has been directed to explore more sustainable packaging solutions, may deliver findings that show the ‘greener’ option is always better and one which consumers would be happy to pay a premium for. The reality may be very different as we find that often in a classic research setting, consumers may say what they think they ‘should’ do, not what they ‘would’ do. Having a designer look and listen, observe and see the consumer through their eyes, can often lead to insightful new understanding and sustainable solutions that will actually be adopted by the consumer.

There is no question that designing a better world for environmental improvement is a complex challenge. What might work for one industry or company does not necessarily translate into a blueprint for others. Supply chains differ, local attitudes contrast, government legislation varies and education can have a role in pushing the sustainability agenda further. We finished ‘Focus Live’ with a thought provoking point from Sanjay. Driving the sustainability agenda is not just about making sound economic and environmentally responsible decisions as brands and businesses. Vitally, we ALL need to be a ‘good citizen’ on behalf of this planet and its future generations, as consumers as well as business decision makers.

If you’d like to discuss your sustainability challenge with us further, then please get in touch with Kelly Dawson, Design Strategy Manager.

We’d love to talk.