To say there has been a lot going on in 2020 would be an understatement, yet through all the fallout and issues that coronavirus has generated, sustainability, and in particular Environmental Sustainability, has been a constant theme. As fires have raged, and icecaps have melted, figures like Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough have kept the issue firmly in the public eye.  

What is sustainability?

Sustainability is not just about the environment; it is a broader subject that demands we meet today’s challenges without damaging the ability of future generations to meet theirs. This extends from corporate governance through social responsibility to the environment and incorporates issues like well-being, diversity, and supply chain responsibility, to mention a few. What was once called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is now part of a much wider philosophy.

Why does it matter to business?

Sustainability is critical for business in several ways. Employees want to work for responsible companies that share their values, and so it is becoming an important factor in attracting and retaining talent. Ultimately businesses that do not embrace sustainability cannot be viable in the mid to long term and that will mean they cannot secure investment for growth or maintain consumer appeal.

Increasingly consumers are becoming concerned by their impact and therefore the impact of those businesses with whom they choose to spend their money. Certainly, anyone who has watched David Attenborough’s recent documentary “A life on our planet’ cannot fail to be moved to want to play their part.  Over the years, what was a relatively passive concern is maturing into action.  Shoppers want to know that the products they buy are not at the expense of someone less fortunate, or at the detriment of the environment.

What is happening as a result?

This change in consumer behaviour is giving birth to a new generation of businesses and causing many more to look deep within their organisations, cultures, and supply chains to make sure they can meet their stakeholder expectations and maintain their viability and relevance.  

Is there a place for ethical consumerism as we head towards the peak of the e-commerce calendar? Absolutely. It has never been more important for businesses to demonstrate their credentials and it is going to become even more so in the future.

The good news is that change is all around us. There are numerous NGO’s championing various elements of the sustainability equation and big business is listing too.  This month Levi announced their Recommerce initiative; companies like Rakuten and Clarins are putting sustainability at the heart of its corporate values, and there are ever more advertisers coming to market with offerings rooted in sustainability.  

“Clarins is very excited to be working with [Bravovoucher] a promotional partner who places environmental values at the forefront of what they do.”  Louise Petillon, Online Acquisition Manager – Clarins UK

Within the affiliate publisher community, BravoVoucher, and its sister sites in the Bravo Savings Network, are working with Eden Reforestation Projects to help plant and nurture trees and provide a fair wage to indigenous populations in areas like Mozambique, Indonesia and Kenya.  Green Friday is their flagship project, planting a tree for each sale made for participating advertisers – they are aiming for 200,000 trees this year.

What can we all do?

There is an exponential growth in the amount of content online driving change and empowering individuals to take the first steps in their companies. Anyone at any level should be granted the right to suggest a change. Looking at those businesses that have taken some action, the key takeaway is to recognise the importance of starting the journey, appreciating the road might be long and there will be some bumps, but that there is a goal in sight. No-one has really got it completely right yet, and change takes time. 2020 has been a pivotal year, watch out for 2021.