The Future of the Circular Economy and the Rise of the Circular Brand
With convenience often outweighing consciousness and sustainability, the retail cycle and its consequential after-effects have long been pushed to one side. But 2020 was about to change that. With fashion industry waste set to reach 148m tons annually by 2030, (according to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2017 report), it seems brands are finally waking up to the challenges that face the retail industry and the role they must play in impacting change.
With such an awakening, (though admittedly more can and is to be done) brands are innovating with commercial programmes that are driving the new circular economy. With consumer goods being one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world, customers are looking to brands to tackle over-production and wasteful consumption.
It’s no surprise that this change in altruistic attitudes from brands comes at a time where consumers are expecting brands to align with their own values, demanding products that are sustainable and socially conscious. It seems that the circular economy is somewhat driven by a new circular conversation between brand and consumer, where companies are finally treating every micro-interaction with its community as a valuable opportunity to lean in, learn and improve their business model.
And it’s not just major brands like North Face and Nike who are leading the circular business model. Within the fashion and wider retail space, we have seen the rise of small, independent businesses who are leading the path towards a future that is responsible, circular, supportive of others and ultimately defined by longevity. Notable brands include the sustainable clothing brand Pangaia, whose team of scientists, technologists, artists and designers create collections that are made from renewable resources and lab-grown materials. Its first collection unveiled a range of bio-based and recycled wardrobe essentials, including t-shirts, tracksuits and puffer jackets.
Outside of fashion too, the growing concern about the environmental impact of plastic packaging is driving innovations in re-usable and refill concepts among retailers and FMCG brands. The new all-purpose cleaner Veles is setting a new standard for sustainable home cleaning by being resource-negative – which means it does not use raw materials and treats waste as a resource. Created using a bio-refining process from food waste, the product contains various acids, alcohol at its base and essential oils for a natural scent. Closing the loop completely, the product is also packaged in aluminium, which is infinitely recyclable.
During a time where Covid-19 has turned the future into a bleak prospect for many people and most businesses, for some at least, it is still looking green. Major global conglomerates and future-facing businesses are placing greater investment than ever in rigorous systems, supply chains and sustainable practices that are feeding into the circular economy.
It’s not such a push to say that the new era of retail is pushing back against purpose-washing and bandwagon behaviour and instead is seeing brands being honest about their imperfections amid the quest for betterment. It seems years of consumer disillusionment has forced us to reevaluate our brand expectations, we no longer want nor expect perfect, just a promise to do better.