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The Business of Sustainability

If you had to take a look at each year as it passes, and assign one overarching feeling to each, there would be no doubt that 2019 has been the year of sustainability.

With a huge surge in the number of people exploring a more plant-based diet, and many becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of the single-use plastics that we are so reliant on, plenty of consumers are now taking active steps to make their lives more sustainable.

With 1 in 3 Brits now either reducing or ceasing their meat intake entirely, it’s no surprise that the markets have risen to the demand, with the UK launching more vegan products than any other nation in 2018

So that begs the question, what is the path for businesses going forward? How best do they rise to meet the consumer revolution that’s been rolling along quietly for years, but has now burst to the forefront of daily discussion?

Well, plenty of businesses have been pondering that question themselves, and taking action to ensure they are meeting the demands of the ever more sustainable consumer.


We’ve rounded up our five favourite initiatives below:


The pastry giant was undoubtedly one of the first major businesses to jump on the growing plant-based market with the launch of their, now famous, vegan sausage roll.

Partnering with Quorn, the new product was launched in response to a petition by PETA signed by 20,000 people, perfectly timed to capture the Veganuary market.  

Tapping into a very recognisable brand’s marketing style, the Greggs sausage roll was launched in the manner of a new iPhone, with journalists receiving a deskside package designed to appear like a brand new Apple offering.

The vegan pastry was a hit with consumers across the board, resulting in a reported 58% increase in profits for the company, but perhaps the most unexpected outcome was the CEO himself stating 9 months after the launch, that he had switched to a vegan diet!



With an estimated 8.8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste ending up in the sea each year, 2019 saw brands far and wide taking steps to reduce their own impact. 

Carlsberg took their first steps in this direction by moving away from the plastic ring can holders that are used by almost every drinks company across the globe.

The beer giant instead has been trialling a recyclable glue to hold the cans together, a move which is estimated to reduce plastic waste by up to 1200 tonnes of plastic each year.


John Lewis & Partners / Waitrose & Partners

Supermarkets, while certainly making our lives more convenient, are undeniably responsible for a great deal of waste and carbon footprint in the UK. It is for this reason that companies like John Lewis & Partners have been taking steps to reduce the impact that they have. 

Like many UK stores, they have pledged that the own-brand products in Waitrose & Partners will have widely recyclable packaging by 2023, and John Lewis & Partners by 2025. In addition to this promise, 2019 saw Waitrose trial a new concept of store called Waitrose Unpacked, which encouraged shoppers to bring their own jars and containers from home to fill with products such as pasta, rice, oils. The aim of this being to reduce the huge amount of waste that comes from food packaging.

However, it’s not just the conventional materials that John Lewis has been taking steps to recycle. A recently launched scheme by the brand offers a ‘buyback’ service for unwanted clothes, aiming to reduce clothing waste. And having already cut their operational CO2 emissions by 71% since 2010, they have also committed to converting their transport fleet to zero carbon by 2045.



An estimated 230 festivals take place each summer in the UK with 3.17 million of us in attendance each year, and on average, music festivals generate a staggering 23,500 tonnes of waste annually.

Glastonbury was the first mainstream festival to take action against this huge problem, by placing a complete ban on the sale of single-use plastic bottles on the site in 2019. Instead, they invested in water bottle refilling stations and encouraged festival-goers to bring their own reusable bottles, as well as making them available to buy on site.

This is just another step on the way to Glastonbury’s journey to reducing their environmental impact, having already ensured every food trader on-site made the switch to compostable cutlery and plates in previous years. 



Perhaps the most radical in our top 5 list is the activation by UK startup Notpla – which you may have seen taking place at the 2019 London Marathon. 

In previous years, as many as 760,000 plastic water bottles were discarded in the streets by thirsty runners as they passed through the rehydration stations posted regularly along the 26.2 mile course. In 2019 however, Notpla stepped in and instead were seen handing out edible seaweed pods filled with Lucozade Sport to fuel the masses. Rather than taking and discarding plastic bottles, runners could bite into the seaweed pods to release the Lucozade, and then swallow the cover, or discard it – and see it biodegrade in less than six weeks.


So that’s how five big names in the UK are adapting to meet the challenge of the sustainable consumer – what steps are you making to do the same?



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