Sustainability Trends Brands Can Expect in 2021

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Leaders in beauty and wellness have been creating sustainable practices for decades, constantly reinventing the products they promote, and the methods used to produce them. But as the beginning of new decade peers over the horizon, top brands will be starrings at how many have changed over the last ten years. Smart devices have changed everything, automation and AI have begun to take hold, while wider geopolitics and Brexit have swamped decision -making – there’s a lot to ponder on. During the aftershock of the pandemic, many companies will come out the other side tougher, while others will take time to find their feet again. While sustainability endeavours have gained momentum in 2020, 2021 is expected to be the year brands really held accountable for their work in this area. 

So what will sustainability look like in 2021? And more importantly, what are the trends brands need to prepare for? Here are some predictions.

 Supply Chains: Going Circular 

A major shift we expect to see in 2021 will be some of the world’s biggest brands actively changing their supply chains to become ‘’circular’, under pressure from green-minded consumers. With people now looking to the business space to reduce their carbon emissions and eliminate the plastic from our waters, in 2021, the onus is firmly on brands and their value.

To start making the right moves before it’s too late, companies worldwide need to move from an ‘’ out of mind, out of sight’’ production pattern to being responsible for their entire end-to-end supply chain. What does that mean? Brands should say goodbye to simply making shampoo and shipping it out in a plastic recipient – they should be more responsible for where the plastic recipient ends up and how it gets there.

In 2021 we are expecting to see at least one major global brand strike up a deal with stores for ‘’ refill stations’’, where customers can get discounts on their shampoo by reusing old recipients, drastically cutting plastic waste and reducing carbon emissions. However, circularity doesn’t always end with returns. Many companies will take responsibility for the end of their supply chain too, with the provenance of the product and ethical sourcing also a crucial part of the puzzle.

Gen Z Becomes an Economic Force for Good 

In 2021 some of them will be turning 23. That’s right, those much younger than millennials is starting to leave school, get hired, and is set to be a growing force in the economy. We also know that Gen Zs is the most eco-minded generation to date. 54% of young adults in gen Z think a business’s environmental and social efforts are very or extremely important when considering whether to purchase a service or a product. But Millennials aren’t that far behind ( with 48%) while baby boomers are way behind in this front with only 24% seeing a business impact as important.

In 2021, this demographic will be hard to ignore for companies worldwide – they will need to prepare for a world where sustainable companies are mainstream, and a savvy, digital-minded consumer is ready to ignore any attempts at greenwashing.  

From anti-plastic to anti-packing

Last year the anti-plastic sentiment managed somehow to be mainstream. According to a survey, 65% of Australians said reducing the plastic usage was a big focus for them, followed by multiple recycling points in various locations around Australia. This was by far the most appreciated option on the list with straws, coffee cups and plastic being the main target. 

Meanwhile, 2019 was the year when countries like Indonesia and China closed their doors to waste from countries like Australia. But this is expected to change in 2021 and the announcement of $100 million government funding in recycling services will be welcomed with open arms. 

As a result, we would not be surprised if 2020 was the year Aussies woke up to the problems with their recycling system, which could change the anti-plastic sentiment into a much larger anti-packing movement. That said, switching to more sustainable alternatives to plastic such as cardboard, won’t be enough for businesses if the consumer knows the waste in the paper waste stream doesn’t get recycled. 

Going Below Zero

One of the most aching movements in sustainability – reducing the carbon footprint and reaching carbon neutrality – has enriched greatly over the years. In 2021 many personal care brands plan to take corporate – level actions to bring their carbon levels to zero net output. In the meantime, some other brands think this isn’t an action complex enough – what we need is to achieve carbon negativity.

For a business to attain this honorific, more than 100 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by a company should be compensated by eliminating carbon from the environment. To be honest, that’s a huge goal that asks for dedication, creativity along every step of the supply chain, and more progressive insight into how our actions impact the environment around us.

Making a Commitment to Clean

The idea of clean beauty is merely a formulation that’s healthy for our skin of free form unwanted ingredients. In 2021 clean beauty will push forward, defining a mantra of living a more pure sustainable life.

Some brands have sometimes stumbled to define what it means to be clean – we now see it as transparency in ingredients, a formulation without pointless synthetics and by-products, and sustainability in its manufacturing processes.

Beauty product formulation requires the pairing of surfactants with clean ingredients to achieve basic requirements. In 2021 both research and development teams are expected to reduce the ingredient list while still obtaining previous claims and benefits.

Savvy beauty product consumers didn’t notice how the ingredients were sourced, or what products were made of until brands started endorsing themselves as clean. Revolution creates more revolution, and even a superficial public relations trick can impact the environment. People love contributing to a cause no matter its goal.

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