Scottish Resources Conference speaker Kate Gallacher, Sustainability Officer for Scottish Leather Group, examines the challenges around encouraging sustainable behaviour change.
If companies know what their end goal is, they can take practical steps to encourage sustainable decision-making from consumers. However, there are significant complexities around production and consumption, brand loyalty, consumer behaviour, and the “S” factor – sustainability.
In terms of how companies can communicate their sustainable actions and drive consumer change, I would suggest a cross-company representative team asks themselves the following questions.
Do we understand what “sustainability” means to our consumers, and how do we know this? Is it through verified customer engagement, market research, or other methods? Has there been a Materiality Assessment undertaken by your customers?
Within their respective industry, is the company responding to informed consumers’ demands or is the path to sustainability awareness being driven by the company and/or industry?
Understanding the impact of these societal shifts on material trends helps us identify what we need to do to meet the needs of tomorrow’s consumers.
In both cases, and in light of the proposed Green Claims legislation, companies can expect consumers to undertake more research to understand where their money is going. Consumers are demanding transparency.
How are these efforts (on both sides) being communicated? Consumers can vote with their wallets but what about the organisation – are we communicating the material information in an accessible and relatable manner?
As well as maintaining close working relationships with our automotive, aviation and bespoke partners to support them in achieving their sustainability targets, Scottish Leather Group (SLG) also tracks and analyses global, cross-industry consumer trends to keep one eye on what the future holds.
Our research has highlighted consumer awareness of the need to shift everyday habits to contribute towards a more sustainable future. However, greenwashing and misinformation is leading to confusion. Understanding the impact of these societal shifts on material trends helps us identify what we need to do to meet the needs of tomorrow’s consumers.
What steps can companies take to encourage behaviour change?
Decide what it is that you want to communicate by having a clear strategy to review what commitments you have made and how best to measure and report your progress. Below are some clear steps your company can take:
Assess internal capacity to deliver
Ask do you have the team numbers, skills, and time needed to achieve your goals? Do you need to look externally; if so, what are your “must haves” criteria for the third party? Make sure you research what options are available.
There may be funding available for solar panels, or advisers providing information on starting your sustainability journey from the local council; mentoring available from the local Chamber of Commerce or Business Gateway, as well as various industry forums where business of all sizes can exchange knowledge and current best practice.
The key is to identify capacity gaps and prioritise what you can do while making a short-term and long-term plan to address the gaps as appropriate. All of these points are incorporated into a greater understanding of what is important to your consumer.
Understand systems and set KPIs
Establish what KPIs are important to your progress. Company KPIs may align with international or organisational commitments, so therefore progress will need to be measured, assessed, and reported in a standard format.
Ensure there are clear method statements as to how the monitoring is undertaken, recorded, and reported, (internally and externally). For many companies their data may be summarised in an annual report to inform regulatory bodies, shareholders, and consumers. However, an organisation may standardise their reporting so that it’s not only consistent year on year, but also following international standards as may be required within the respective industry.
Managing and verifying data
In terms of transparency and accountability, companies who are setting and reporting against targets should be clear on how this is being done. Is the data being externally audited and if so, to what standard? Where this is not possible, how is the data checked and at what frequency?
The information published is what allows customers to compare organisations. Data should be used to support claims an organisation is making to avoid greenwashing.
Looking at the data also allows the company an internal opportunity to see what the data is and isn’t saying, where the gaps are to shape and inform the budget, and how it fits into the long-term strategy.
From annual reports to product information displays, each one is an opportunity to inform your audience. By embedding your ESG-related information into your messaging, as a company you’re demonstrating that sustainability has received buy-in from all levels of the organisation.
By being transparent, companies give their consumers the opportunity to compare products or services. If sustainability is a unique selling point of a company and key purchasing consideration of a customer, this ensures they can make an informed decision.
A sustainable blueprint for the future
Scottish Leather Group worked with independent consultant Spin 360 to establish a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) process to measure our leather’s impact from the sourcing of raw material through to manufacturing and finishing.
We were the first leather manufacturer to share our LCA value of 8kg CO₂ e/m² across all communication channels. The credibility of the LCA for our leather is based on our primary data, which was third-party accredited, created by specialist consultants using sector and internationally recognised guidelines.
Our ability to access primary data from our supply chain comes from the fact we manufacture from raw to finished leather, and work closely with all our suppliers, providing visibility back to source. In other words, we know exactly where these inputs to our process come from.
We believe this level of transparency represents a blueprint for the future of the wider industry.
This makes the impact of using our product tangible as our clients can see the benefits in the numbers, which in turn impacts on their targets and/or commitments. We believe this level of transparency represents a blueprint for the future of the wider industry, which sometimes struggles to ascertain the level of detail required.
As the consumer becomes increasingly aware of the impacts of manufacturing and operational processes, Greenhouse Gas Accounting, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s decree of limiting global warming to 1.5° C to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, brands must offer complete transparency and traceability through their supply chains.
Coupled with increasingly strict legislation, organisations must be able to articulate and verify their carbon targets and respective progress and present the “true cost” of their product to the customer.
You can hear Kate Gallacher discussing sustainable decision-making on the “Be The Change – Raising Awareness and Encouraging Behaviour Change” panel during day two of the Scottish Resources Conference 2023. Book your place today to attend this innovative event featuring two days of unmissable content from experts across the Scottish industry.