How Consumers Help Push the Sustainability Agenda Forward
Posted by Joanne Pearce on
Consumers are crucial to making sustainability changes in industry, say speakers during a Women in Mining UK event.
New generations of consumers are helping pressure companies and world leaders to make greener choices, products, and services.
Women in Mining, a non-profit organization that advocates and speaks for the advancement of women in the mining sector, held an interesting webinar in February on this very topic: “How Consumers are Pushing the Sustainability Agenda Forward In The Mining Industry.”
The event, sponsored by Buchanan, was moderated by Ariadna D. Peretz, Director at Buchanan and Head of Communications at Women in Mining UK. Speakers included:
Charlie Betts, Group Managing Director of Betts Group and Founder of Single Mine Origin
Michillay Brown, Corporate Relations Principal – Hydrogen at Anglo American
Yulia Chekunaeva, Director, Capital Markets at En+ Group
Michèle Brülhart, Executive Director of The Copper Mark
THE INFLUENCE AND POWER OF CONSUMERS EXTENDS FAR BEYOND THE STORE.
Heightened public concern for the planet is creating demand for more sustainable and ethical products. As consumers become conscious of their carbon footprints, green issues become a core consideration in their purchasing decisions.
Michillay Brown has seen the influence this demand can have on company initiatives within her role at Anglo American. Her work involves considering key policy areas such as human rights, climate change, and the ethical value chain. During the webinar, Michillay spoke about a previous project she worked on called Tracr, a De Beers initiative that used blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to trace individual diamonds from the country of origin to the end consumer.
“Tracr’s entire purpose is to enhance consumer trust in the industry by ensuring provenance traceability and authenticity in natural diamonds from the buyers' minds,” said Michillay.
“Consumers want to know if their diamonds have been ethically and responsibly sourced, but more so: how can they actually verify that information? It's for all these very reasons that De Beers, as a group, decided to pay attention and embrace the consumer concerns, as well as other stakeholders as well.”
In other words, a nice product is no longer enough for consumers. Shoppers want more than quality, but also products and brands that align with their own personal values; brands and products that they can trust. We’ve noticed that trend ourselves at Covergalls - our customers value that we create gear that is inclusive and supports safety.
Our washable and reusable #CanadaStrong face mask. $5 from every purchase of a Covergalls ‘Canada Strong’ Washable Fabric Mask will be donated to assist in the purchase of essential PPE to protect the residents and staff of long-term care facilities across our great nation.
Sustainability is another value customers are adopting in their purchasing considerations.
In a January 2019 survey from Hotwire, 47 percent of internet users worldwide reported switching to a different product or service because a company violated their personal values.
The Insider Intelligence noticed this trend in consumers' 2019 holiday purchases, and reported how young consumers said they were willing to switch to greener delivery options even if they were slower.
Like Michillay, Yulia Chekunaeva has noticed how consumers’ interest in sustainability impacts company decisions and product design in her work in the aluminum industry. She offered two examples that many people around the world use everyday: phones and cars.
“The iPhone case is made of low carbon aluminium and they require a certificate for origin, and the third party verification if you want to enter their supply chain,” said Yulia.
“OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and automakers review their supply chains and then they…[consider] what they need to do to sell a car to Greta Thunberg, who is going to be 27 years old in 2030.” - Yulia Chekunaeva, Director, Capital Markets at En+ Group
In her own work at En+ Group, Yulia has campaigned to introduce a greater disclosure of the carbon footprint of aluminum production. She argued that engaging stakeholders across the value chain and considering the perspective of consumers is key to making sustainability impacts.
WHAT IS ENOUGH? HOW DO WE IMPROVE GOING FORWARD?
According to the 2019 United Nations Global Compact – Accenture Strategy CEO Study, CEOs globally believed that businesses were not doing enough, and in many cases their own companies and industries were not stepping up, in both business and sustainability impact. The report drew on the insights from 1,000 CEOs across 21 industries and 99 countries, reflected over 100 in-depth interviews, and included 1,500-plus senior business leaders who responded to the UN Global Compact’s implementation survey.
The results pose an interesting question: what is enough? We see organizations — 3M, Apple, Boeing, Google — report successes and put out ambitious objectives. But are these efforts enough?
During the WIM UK webinar, Arianda brought up a similar question to panelists, asking about stretch targets and if the work being done now is enough.
“Look, I don't really think it'll ever be enough because it's really not something that has a start date or an end date and really needs to be a continuous process, the continuous partnership, the innovation - and when I say innovation I mean it in the truest sense of the word: introducing completely new methods, investing in technology, collaborating across supply chains” said Michillay.
“I think when it comes to low carbon metals and minerals in particular, the mining industry really needs to ask themselves: what role are we playing in achieving net zero?” - Michillay Brown, Corporate Relations Principal – Hydrogen at Anglo American
Charlie Betts added to her point, noting how all progress made will help businesses to move forward with their work.
“For a corporate miner, having a really progressive proud platform, both in sustainability and everything else, actually becomes not only the right thing to do, it becomes the most profitable thing to do as well because having more enhanced credentials than your competitors in this phase is starting to pay.”
Michelle Brülhart, while agreeing with the statements made, also reminded everyone to take a step back and remember social and governance sides.
“Human rights due diligence has been a concept that's been around for very long but we're still struggling to implement it and many minerals supply chains still unfortunately see it as a new concept...in terms of what does it mean to do due diligence on human rights abuses in your supply chain,” said Michèle Brülhart.
“I think to me one of the important points that we can improve on going forward is just to make sure we while we have that fantastic leadership in place and while we have this innovation, make sure we don't forget the rest of the industry, make sure we don't run off with leaders and just sort of expect things to expand to the rest of the industry, expect things to be adopted by the rest of the industry. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of day-to-day work to raise awareness of these concepts.”
TUNING INTO CONSUMERS’ VALUES
The above is just a sampling of the many interesting points the WIM UK webinar brought up. A lot of what was discussed however, about listening to consumers, their needs and values, resonated with us.
Covergalls started because our founder and CEO, Alicia Woods, experienced what many other women in the traditionally male-dominated mining industry experience: a lack of consideration. What we value is creating spaces that are inclusive, diverse, and safe. It is these characteristics that help differentiate us from others and create products that are meaningful.
But, like the panelists said in the webinar, there is no “enough” for us either. We are always wondering how we can improve and go further. How can Covergalls help expand the culture of the working industry to be more inclusive? What products can we create, or improve on, to help keep people safe? How do we create opportunities for people to go to work feeling comfortable and empowered?
As someone who started her own company, Alicia understands it's not always easy to switch up production processes. Last year we also pivoted to manufacturing face masks as the COVID-19 infection rates began to rise in Ontario. But opening the door to that change was rewarding, and the amazing feedback we’ve gotten from our customers have confirmed what values we already knew were so important.
“Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Recently, we released our new 3-Layer Washable, Fabric Face Mask. It’s made with our Lycra outer shell, a middle polypropylene filter layer and an inner soft cotton liner. The mask is available online for purchase and includes a nose wire and earloop stoppers.
We’re really excited about this new product because it’s reusable, preventing the waste from single-use disposable masks, and meets the Public Health Agency of Canada’s requirement for non-medical masks to have three layers!
Check out our Instagram for more photos of our mask.