Consumers continue to grow increasingly aware that when we throw something away, “away” is just someone else’s “here.” We know our ﬂoss, ketchup packets, and sandwich bags whirl in the Great Paciﬁc Garbage Patch, and the ocean is soon to contain more plastic than ﬁsh.
Fear. That’s what many feel about the future, and there is no greater motivator for behavior change. That’s why closed systems are the future of business. Closing the loop simply means modeling your business so that every item (packaging or otherwise) going out has a way to come back to be shared, repaired, reused, or recycled. Businesses that don’t concern themselves with the end result of packaging and waste will soon face the ﬁring squad of public opinion.
More and more people, especially those in the younger generations, are waking up to the consequences of convenience. Around the world, just in the last ﬁve years, 85 percent of people have already made lifestyle changes in the name of sustainability.
In public spaces, where there used to be a single trash can, you may notice that besides the addition of recycling and compost, there now often sits a new label for the can we used to simply call trash. It now says: “Landﬁll.”
We can no longer afford euphemisms. The implications of this global shift in thinking is a tremendous opportunity to meet consumer demand, make money, and protect humanity from the consequences of ecosystem destruction.
For example, the clothing brand For Days created a plan for customers to return clothes after they’re worn out, to recycle back into yarn. Natura, a Brazilian beauty brand that has been carbon neutral since 2007, uses plastic made from sugarcane, and sells reﬁlls rather than 100% new containers. Its parent company, Natura & Co, posted net revenues of $7.2B in 2020. The opportunity to transition to closed loop models across industries is vast and ripe for innovation.
I founded Prep to Your Door after I realized how much waste the usual pre-packaged meal creates. We now prepare and deliver ready-to-eat meals, across Texas, in jars that are collected and reused in a closed loop, zero waste model. Not only is this an altruistic step towards responsible environmental stewardship, but a core reason for customer loyalty that is fueling the growth of our company. We’ve seen year over year growth since inception and have saved over half a million pieces of plastic from the landﬁll to date, as charted below.
3 Reasons Closed Loop is the future of business:
1. With more attention on the environment, the demand for sustainability is building.
From 2016 to 2020, the number of tweets about biodiversity and nature loss rose from 30 million to 50 million, a 65% increase, according to a 2021 report. This report also showed a 71% rise in the searches for sustainable goods. The study, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), and commissioned by WWF, showed that 60% of organizations have started collecting data on supply-chain sustainability. This data will be essential to answering to a public that increasingly wants to know whether doing business with a company will help or hinder the battle against climate change. Globally, a third of the population is willing to pay twice as much for sustainable products. In the United States, 64% are also willing to pay more, and are looking for trustworthy brands to support.
2. Increasing regulation will add cost to those who lag.
From taxes on emissions to out-right banning of single-use plastics, the political muscles that can force change are already being ﬂexed. If you don’t have a plan for the disposal or reuse of your packaging, you may be caught in a situation where the cost to do business skyrockets due to new taxes, or where you’re scrambling to replace a system that will soon fall outside regulations. Industry leaders and visionaries who see the changes coming and plan ahead will create businesses that not only weather, but ride these storms to success.
3. The best people want to be a part of change.
In a survey of about 1,000 employees, more than 70% said that they would prefer to work at a company with a strong environmental agenda. About 30% said they’ve bailed on a company because the organization lacked a sustainability plan.
Providing a vision, inspiration, and pride in what they’re doing creates an environment employees want to be part of. There was no Great Resignation at Prep to Your Door, because people want to be a part of what we do. Your plan for sustainability inﬂuences your demand, costs, and turnover. Are there three factors that affect the proﬁtability of a business more?
For your business to not only survive but thrive, you need to become a part of the standards and practices that will help the world thrive. As the McKinsey report, “Proﬁts with purpose: How organizing for sustainability can beneﬁt the bottom line,” said, “a growing body of evidence indicates that sustainability initiatives can help to create proﬁts and business opportunities.” This is an opportunity you can’t afford to miss.
Images credit: Getty
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