Make Sustainability Stick

By now, we know sustainability is not a trend. It’s become a business model, a lifestyle and an industry in its own right. But just because we’ve moved past the novelty of it all, it doesn’t have to be regarded as a chore either.

Decision-makers across all industries feel the pressure to weave sustainability into their mission statements, core values and consumer-facing materials.

In their own efforts to uphold sustainability, consumers have shown they will loyally support companies and brands that have proven their effectiveness and commitment in this area, by purchasing products that promote sustainability as a core attribute.

For businesses and consumers, getting sustainability to stick over the long term requires an approach that brings more to the table than traditional ROI. Cost-savings and doing the right thing for the planet can get us started, but to truly embrace sustainability we need to make it more meaningful. One way is with the MEco-friendly trend, which blurs the line between being pragmatic about the planet and getting personal about the approach. Here are three ways to tie sustainability back to a consumer need in a personally engaging way.

Gamify it

Think of what Fitbit did for fitness, and then imagine a device that made consumers equally giddy about sustainability. That’s the aim of Worldbeing, a wearable device that tracks a person’s carbon footprint. Its designers believe the future will be about accountability, calling on businesses to list the carbon footprints of their products and services. Through the device, data will be tracked and analyzed to determine carbon usage.

An article on Slate.com explains: “More transparent data could eventually allow Worldbeing to track food, home energy consumption, shopping, and travel using Apple Pay-like contactless wireless payments that operate using ECG sensors. The data collected from these payments would then be used to calculate carbon usage. Worldbeing could also partner with the databases of existing services and apps, such as Moven to track real-time purchases, Google Maps to track travel, and MyFitnessPal to track food consumption.”

Beautify it

When it comes to embracing sustainability through renewable technologies, aesthetics can come into play. Some businesses and homeowners will proudly display a solar array or herd of windmills on their property, while others feel cosmetically challenged by the commitment.

Artist Marjan Van Aubel seeks to change the way we see solar technology through the Current Window — a modern version of stained glass using current technologies. The windows are created using colored pieces of glass made from “dye sensitized solar cells.” These cells generate enough electricity from daylight to power a range of electrical appliances. The window ledges even come equipped with USB ports to power devices. The windows could be installed to enhance sustainability and style in a variety of buildings (think schools, churches, offices or apartment complexes).

Fortify it

In its latest State of Green Business report (March 2016), GreenBiz lists “Sustainability becomes an employee perk” as one of the top 10 sustainable business trends of 2016. Recognizing that Millennials seek to work for companies that have a positive impact on the world is only the beginning. Some businesses have found ways to further encourage employees to practice sustainability beyond the boardroom, by providing them with ways to make it a bigger part of their personal lives.

For example, Facebook pays $10,000 bonuses to employees who agree to move closer to its corporate campus, thereby cutting down on traffic. Bank of America supported a $500 discount for employees investing in a solar rooftop installation from SolarCity, and offered to reimburse workers $3,000 on the purchase of a hybrid, compressed natural gas or highway-capable electric vehicle. The trend illustrates a shift from rewarding employees with a sustainable place to work for their peace of mind, to revamping employees with a sustainable way to live, influencing their lifestyle choices.

Whether it’s making sustainability fun, giving it flare, or giving it a stronger position within our lives, the goal is to tie it back to a consumer need in a personally engaging way.


*Image of the Current Window, courtesy of Marjanvanaubel.com