Peak Stuff: Companies embracing a more socially aware generation
In January 2016, Steve Howard, the head of sustainability at Ikea, declared that the West had probably hit peak stuff. This case study explores the validity of the statement, why businesses should engage in sustainability drives, and a few companies leading the way.
Analysis of what micro and macro level factors are driving companies embracing sustainability across a variety of industries.
Highlighting examples of companies successfully approaching sustainability.
Reasons To Buy
What is meant by peak stuff?
Why are companies embracing sustainability?
Which companies are embracing a sustainability drive?
There have been some signs of slowing consumption. As credit and real wages have stagnated, technological innovation has also curbed demand for physical products via digitization. For a generation of people, economic malaise has led to preferences for experiences rather than products, and rising living costs have forced adaptation of the sharing economy. The younger generation is much more concerned with health so some industries with public health consequences will suffer beyond peak stuff. That is not to say all industries are moving towards declining consumption; both automotive and apparel continue to grow strongly.
It may seem paradoxical that companies seek to grow while also preparing for a slowing in volumes, crisis can also be opportunity. Adopting early can give the brand some traction among consumers, and if they are industry leaders, may set the tone. Depending on how they combat declining sales (whether through marketing or value added), it may contribute to a unique selling point which differentiates the company's offering. However, environmentally aware consumers are also more aware of green washing, so companies must take care to also take more than piecemeal action. In industries which attract ire due to negative externalities, taking a lead in sustainable consumption may be seen as an attempt to ward off regulation before it happens.
Some companies are already trying to position themselves for the coming consumption decline across a variety of industries- some altruistic, some self-motivated. IKEA's sustainability director was the one to bring the concept of peak stuff into public discourse, and it's no surprise the company is planning long term, aiming to double its sustainable product sales by 2020 and involving itself in the longer product life cycle and planning longer term.
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