6 Sustainability Tips For Brands From ESG Experts

6 Sustainability Tips For Brands From ESG Experts

FloorFound | Designing for Sustainability Panel
A Powerful Opportunity to Make a Positive Impact
There's no one-size-fits-all solution to becoming a sustainable business, but there are plenty of brands, practitioners, and experts available to help companies of all sizes develop their own sustainability strategies.

In closing of our circular themed pop-up shop in NYC with Sabai and Cambium Carbon, we invited panel experts to discuss ways to weave sustainable practices and goals into their mission, materials, designs and processes.

Below are some of the top takeaways. You can access the full recording here.

1. More brands than you realize are implementing sustainable initiatives than ever before – but they are afraid to talk about it.

Communication roles at brands weren’t trained to address this type of topic, according to Bed Bath & Beyond’s VP of ESG Danielle Azoulay.

The Columbian adjunct professor of sustainability management also sympathizes that “The risk is high for these roles because everything they do is external.”

Cancel culture has added significant pressure on brands to keep sustainability under wraps Phantila Phataraprasit, CEO of Sabai Designs added.

“Skepticism comes from the green washing that consumers have seen so they are trained to see through companies. But honestly, that skepticism pushes us to be better and validates that concept.”

2. Your business needs to be focusing on sustainability - even if the your brand isn’t environmentally motivated.

Beyond the increasing consumer expectations and demand for sustainable options, government regulations are only going to continue to expand. Cities like New York and Chicago are consistently introducing new codes requiring infrastructure to be updated, including buildings previously excluded. In California, any products that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm must be disclosed. While the rules are often frustrating to businesses large and small, our panel’s commercial and residential architect Anderson Kenny adopts a different approach.

While the Yale MBA graduate with a focus in sustainability is dedicated to the mission of more ecologically responsible infrastructure, he understands his clientele often require a shift in perspective.

“Forget the hippy dippy stuff…We’re going to increase your investment and decrease your liability and this is how. Suddenly we have their attention and can introduce change.”

3. People understand that you can’t do everything at once – so long as you’re open to the discussion.

Phantila was attending law school when she decided to start a comprehensively sustainable furniture business. Which meant leaning into every detail of resourcing, manufacturing, delivery, returns, circularity…and on and so forth. And because sustainability is so complicated, including the very likely scenario of one initiative conflicting with another she realized it would be impossible to perfect everything at once.

Phatila understood if Sabai Design couldn’t be perfect out the gate, they would require a new level of consumer transparency including allocating resources to receive and respond to challenges.

“Customers may come in strong with criticism but if you engage in an authentic way and show them it’s not perfect they understand that you’re working on it.”

4. You don’t need to be an ESG expert to ignite change.

While education or a degree could help in your mission. It’s really not necessary. And frankly our Bed Bath & Beyond expert Danielle doesn’t recommend this course.

“Why would you want to be a sustainability practitioner? It's not great in terms of career longevity. If you’re an expert at product design, sourcing, marketing you can work in any of those functional areas and infuse your sustainability passion and change your company from a different vantage point.”

Danielle also recommends getting to know your colleagues to find other eco-advocates. She once discovered her colleague was an avid scuba diver who actively pursued a career in plastics manufacturing so he could ensure the materials used were as environmentally friendly as possible.

5. Try to identify early if you’ll need a partner.

For many circularity initiatives both Bed Bath & Beyond and Sabai recommend researching partnership options - Particularly when it comes to reverse logistics.

“Generally speaking, anything that manages reverse logistics/takeback programs has been really tough,” Danielle said. “Product companies need vendors who are innovating and can provide solutions at scale.”

Phantilla added, “When Sabai initially launched we didn’t have repair and resale established. Those are logistically really heavy lifts. Which is why we ultimately partnered with FloorFound to handle resale.”

6. Seriously, just get started.

Our surprise guest Kendra Peavey, former VP, Global Communication, Sustainability + Impact for S’well and now consultant to numerous brands of all sizes had some great advice.

“You just have to start. You have to overcome the fear. You’re smart. Just be authentic and collect the proof points along the way.”

There are so many resources to help you get going. Your HQ city, local universities, or certificates can provide guidelines and structure so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Viewing the full panel recording is also a great start. Or better yet contact us – Waste reduction is one of the simplest ways for businesses to reach ESG goals. And everyday we’re helping brands like Sabai and Bed Bath & Beyond keep products in homes and out of landfills.
Positioning for success in a fast-growing market

Many brands are already engaged in recommerce, and many more are making plans to jump into this fast-growing market soon. In fact, research from the “FloorFound Consumer Survey 2021” suggests that 50% of what brands sell in the next five years will be resale items. Our survey also found that 92% of consumers have purchased a resale item in the past, including oversized items like furniture.

Given these findings and other realities — such as the broken state of the global supply chain and consumers’ heightened expectations about responsible business practices — it’s risky for brands not to develop a formal recommerce strategy. But how and where do you start?

This guide outlines five key steps that can help you create a successful recommerce strategy for your brand. These steps are informed by FloorFound’s direct experience working with leading brands, like online furniture retailer Joybird, to develop a winning strategy for recommerce.

FloorFound | Getting Started with Recommerce

Listen to the full recording

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