|General day-to-day activities can incur a lot of waste, even in a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME). But there’s growing pressure from both consumers and policymakers for companies of all sizes to be more conscious of their environmental impact – and many have responded positively. Of course, SMEs will often have greater financial pressures than their larger rivals, so might be less able to make sweeping changes. But many are waking up to the fact that embracing sustainability can have huge reputational benefits, which in turn boosts business and therefore their bottom line. And there’s nothing stopping SMEs taking inspiration from larger companies when it comes to boosting their green credentials.
For instance, a recent move by high street fashion retailer H&M has caught our eye, with its pledge to become ‘100% circular.’ This means it wants to use only recycled and sustainable materials to make its clothes. After all, fashion is a highly wasteful business, with customers routinely throwing outfits away after wearing them just once or twice. So what better way for a fashion retailer to show it takes its environmental responsibilities seriously than by actively trying to tackle this issue and cut the amount of clothing that ends up in landfill?
Collection bins used to gather unwanted items
Instead of expecting customers to dump their own unwanted clothes, H&M has in recent years provided collection bins at its stores. So instead of leaving people to their own devices when it comes to discarding items, they are being actively encouraged to return them to the point of sale, so they can be reused in some way. In the last three years, 32,000 tonnes worth of old clothing has been gathered in this way. That’s 32,000 tonnes that didn’t go into landfill – and it’s an easily affordable approach to SMEs to take.
Change perceptions of your industry
If a company can prove an environmental drive isn’t a publicity stunt, it can help to shatter negative myths about a particular sector. In the case of fashion, plenty will argue that low-cost clothing and sustainability cannot go together, but H&M is clearly keen to prove otherwise. Changing perceptions in this way can be great for business and potentially broaden a firm’s consumer base in a way that a standard marketing campaign couldn’t.
Build a positive out of a negative
While a growing number of people are concerned about the sustainability of products, the fact is that the majority of those with plenty of disposable income won’t stop purchasing clothes or other goods because of wider environmental issues. That’s a reality that businesses must deal with. And while there is one obvious way to show your commitment to sustainability – telling people to buy less – it’s clearly an unprofitable move that will drive customers away. The circular approach could therefore be a good way of balancing high levels of consumer consumption and getting them to put back what they take out with minimal effort.
In other words, getting people to return unwanted items to the point of purchase so they can be recycled offers the best of all worlds to all parties. Consumers get the clothes they want whenever they want, and brands can tangibly and demonstrably cut their environmental impact. It’s a win-win scenario all round.
Sources / Further Reading
MEET THE WOMAN WHO MADE H&M RECYCLE 100 MILLION T-SHIRTS, GQ
Could reinvention solve our shopping addiction?, BBC News
OUR SUSTAINABILITY WORK, H&M
How to start cycling to work Sustrans