The Six “S’s” of the new Anti-waste Economy

20 Apr 2011|Added Value

Recent data suggests that consumer declared enthusiasm towards sustainable initiatives is waning. Ethicity’s annual Sustainable Barometer in France reports that 49% of respondents claim to be « very sensitive to planetary environmental issues » vs. 62% in 2006. Nielsen research in the UK tells the same story: the number of “ethically enthused” respondents dropped from 20% in 2008 to only 11% two years later.

So is the sustainable party over? We are certainly seeing backlash towards the wave of “greenwashed” campaigns over the past couple of years. Yet the same Nielsen study cited above shows that purchase of local, energy saving, recyclable and free-range products has in fact grown. In direct contrast to the 2006-2009 phenomenon, people appear to be talking less and doing more. And the good news is that the same holds true for companies: KPMG/The Economic Intelligence unit’s 2010 survey of 378 senior executives worldwide showed 61% of contributors agreeing that the benefits of investing in eco-friendly practices outweigh the costs. This figure hit 72% where organizations boasted annual revenues of $5bn-plus.

Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist for Microsoft, said recently “In just a few years, we went from seeing sustainability as an area of interest to being embedded in everything we do”. A plethora of sustainable commitments and initiatives support this shift. Brands like Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, SAB Miller, and Sky are integrating them into every link in their value chains, with commitments often surpassing 50% reductions in waste, water and energy use. But at some point, the reduced impacts in supply chain will be harder to find. That is where sustainable innovation comes in.

The next few years will see companies’ work harder to create products and services that make it easy for consumers to change behaviour. Enter the six “S’s” of anti-waste:


Provide information to help users become aware of their impacts. In the home. Via energy monitors, like the sleek Wattson, deploys both numbers and colours to show how much electricity is being consumed at any one time. On the road, applications like Fiat’s Eco:Drive are helping drivers improve their fuel efficiency. Even in the shower, nifty gadgets like Waterpebble monitor the time spent showering and through coloured lights, help reduce this time in each subsequent shower.


Show consumers how sustainability can save them money. Hybrid cars like the Prius are a concept that more and more drivers are coming round to, as the price of petrol escalates. UK supermarket giant TESCO rewards their customer’s green behaviours (recycle & reuse) by awarding points via their Clubcard loyalty scheme. Customers can redeem these points on future store purchases.

Say it again and again:

Repeat and remind sustainable messages at point of usage. UK retailer Marks & Spencer ingeniously reminds at the point of washing – on the garment’s label. “Think Climate. Wash at 30˚C”. Nokia has built-in messaging to alert when the phone is fully charged “unplug charger from power supply to save energy”.


Make the fight against waste easy. Californian based DEMO is rolling out EcoATM’s : fully automated consumer electronic recycling kiosks featuring a built-in cash dispenser Customers receive a financial reward for their recycling efforts and society benefits from the removal of eWaste. Minimal packaging is Planet People’s mission with their iQ refill cartridges. Consumers fill a spray bottle with ordinary tap water and pop in a cartridge. The plant-based concentrate visibly mixes with the water, and voila: a full bottle of household cleaner.

Seduce and Surprise:

Create products that are as pleasurable as they are sustainable. Method seduces your senses with ingredients you’d expect to find in expensive face creams rather than cleaning products; pink grapefruit, sea minerals, French lavender and ginger yuzu. Whilst Nike’s sponsorship of last year’s World Cup proposed team shirts made out of recycled plastic bottles and packaged in those same bottles. By featuring this sustainable technology at a sporting event watched by millions, Nike is letting the world know that the technology is worth our attention.

Social Pressure:

Use behavior theory to nudge consumers to waste less. In the US, Opower partners with public utilities to report energy use. Their latest strategy has reduced peak energy consumption by 2-3% simply by sending bills to households that compare their energy consumption to that of their neighbors. And remember the energy monitor Wattson that we highlighted earlier? Well their software now allows its customers to compare their energy use to other customers in their neighborhood or across the world. Company co-founder, Greta Corke, is developing a site that will rank it’s customers by energy efficiency and possibly integrate the data into personal profiles on dating sites.

Through sustainable innovation, brands can help consumers on their journey to more sustainable behaviour. And by so doing, can create new value chains that ensure the resilence and profitability of their businesses. A quick glance at the World’s Most Ethical Companies results tracked against the S&P 500 from 2007 suggests the investment pays off.

By Leslie Pascaud, Director, Added Value, France

Join Leslie Pascaud our Director of Responsible Marketing discuss the merits of sustainable innovation at our Webinar on Monday 23rd May 2011 @ 16:00 UK time. To sign up enter your details and tick the Events & Webinars box here.


* United Nations Global Compact CEO Survey 2010 (based on 766 completed responses)

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