Sustainability is an important aspect of your business to consider.
From compostable packaging to sustainable investing, consumers show their concern for the environment in how they spend their dollars. — Getty Images/AlenaPaulus

Consumers care about the environment and they are expressing that concern with their dollars. Here are five trends reflecting the way both businesses and their customers are taking the health of the planet into account.

Sustainable fashion

These days, there are multiple ways to guiltlessly change out your wardrobe, making it possible to stay on trend while living a sustainable lifestyle. Thanks to millennials and Gen Z, the words “secondhand” and “chic” are now comfortable in the same sentence. The not-for-profit thrift sector alone generated $10 billion in sales in 2019.

Not all secondhand clothes are sold in thrift stores. Many fashion consumers are also resellers. Sites like Poshmark, thredUP and The RealReal facilitate the sale of everything from last week’s fast fashion to high-end luxury goods. That’s sustainability for both the planet and your clothing budget.

Another development with favorable environmental consequences is the clothing rental market. Rent the Runway launched its subscription service in 2009 and now offers items from designer dresses to athleisure and workwear. Since then, names like Ann Taylor Loft, New York and Company and Banana Republic have introduced their own services that allow customers to borrow clothes for a fee.

Recycled plastic as raw material

Single-use plastic has such a bad reputation that finding a way to reuse it means staking a claim to the environmental high ground. More and more businesses are looking to do just that.

Clothing retailer Everlane has introduced Renew, a line of outerwear made with recycled plastic.

The bottles used to manufacture Adidas X Parley footwear are collected from the world’s trashed beaches. And fast-fashion behemoth H&M is right on this trend with its Conscious Collection, a line including articles made with recycled plastic.

And it’s not just clothing manufacturers: California-based toymaker Green Toys keeps a running count of the plastic milk jugs they’ve recycled to produce their toy trucks, planes and tea sets.

Consumers care about the environment and they are expressing that concern with their dollars.

Sustainable packaging

Whether products are picked up off the store shelf or purchased online and shipped to the consumer, the need for protective packaging is nearly universal. With more attention than ever being paid to the environment, businesses are being forced to review packaging choices. For some companies, those choices are an integral part of their sustainability story.

Loop direct ships products as diverse as ice cream, shampoo and gummy bears in returnable, refillable, stainless steel containers. The company, which describes itself as “regenerative and circular,” has formed partnerships with over 40 well-known brands as well as retail giants Walgreens and Kroger.

New York-based biotech firm Ecovative is combining hemp and mycelium to produce an environmentally friendly protective packaging. The 100% compostable product, made from agricultural waste and the root structure of mushrooms, has been formed into custom shapes to protect candles, light fixtures and computer servers. This is packaging headed for the compost bin, not the recycling bin.

Sustainable food

Consumers care a lot about their food. They care about its sustainability, too—enough to let it impact their buying choices. Sales of food products marketed as sustainable are growing faster than the rest of the packaged food industry according to a study by New York University and research firm IRi.

When applied to food, “sustainable” is a broad label, with different connotations for different segments. To producers of plant-based meats, it means a product that contributes less to climate change, among other benefits. To locavores, it means sustaining the livelihoods of nearby producers. To proponents of biodiversity, it means no less than ensuring sufficient food to feed future generations. All of these ideas individually, and the idea of sustainability as a broader definition, will be of greater concern as the influence of younger consumers increases.

[Read more: Sustainability Drives Food Brands to Embrace Earth-Friendly Practices]

Sustainable investing

SRI (sustainable, responsible and impact investing) is on the upswing as investors are increasingly backing up environmental concerns with their investment dollars. According to a study by Morgan Stanley, millennials in particular are looking to invest in companies addressing issues they worry about, like plastic waste and climate change.

In addition to institutional investing, individuals have options for sustainable investing on a smaller scale. Crowdfunding sites like StartSomeGood and Indiegogo have sections highlighting environmentally conscious products and businesses.

From entirely new business models based on sustainability to small changes in the way products are made and shipped, companies are increasingly putting the environment near the top of the agenda.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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