February 12, 2020


The Circular Economy is Coming Our Way. Here Are Some Things to Think About for Product and Product Delivery

During your travels, or even going about your usual business and personal activities, do you recall the days when…  Pilots remember having to use cockpit instruments when flying over large cities because the “smog” (usually thick yellow) eliminated visibility below.  That was caused by belching smokestacks as dirty coal was burned for industrial use or for generating electric power. 

You may have seen deep and wide gouges in our good Earth where giant machine scoopers were pulling a variety of minerals out for manufacturing products.  Or as you traveled past a flowing river you may have seen thick flows of rubber or petroleum-based discharges…don’t worry, downstream the ocean will take it away, we were told.

In many countries, especially in Europe and North America, the good news is we have been moving far away from those days.  And as the linear model of many years in production recedes – that is,  take, make, use, dispose – and moves farther into the past (as described by Tom Tapper of Nice and Serious writing for Sustainable Brands), the “circular model” has been steadily emerging. The effects are being felt all along the value chain.

So what does this mean for branded company leadership?  Tom Tapper cites examples of products and practices new and old from Unilever, CIG, Haagen-Dazs, Coca Cola, Stella, and Aesop, with a focus on their distinct product delivery (packaging, bottles, capsules, other means).  He offers us his perspectives in a sometimes whimsical but always firmly grounded style on what to expect in the coming years in brand marketing.

In a circular economy, the author sees five trends to watch:

  • We’ll be thinking of Bottles as “objects of desire”.  (Remember the classic, dark brown voluptuous-evoking Coca-Cola bottle of yesteryear?  And whatever happened to the little Pez dispensers!)

  • Product and Story. Or, as story.  The quality of and qualities of the product will be the main story told by marketers.  (The smart brand marketing leaders have been doing this for years!)  The drive to reduce plastics use gives smart marketers new ways to talk about product and packaging that has plastic workarounds (in product and packaging).
  • Hermit Crab Branding.  If the brand does not have that beautiful bottle or packaging to offer consumers, they can offer stickers in packs to enable consumers to do their own customizing.  Or to cover over the competitor’s bottle. That is thinking like the Hermit Crab, which live in other sea critters’ cast-off shells.

  • The Coming of Dispenser Wars.  Push here for soap – the product dispenser becomes the competitive battleground, thinks author Tom Tapper. Will consumers want “memorable refill experiences”? Will marketers entertain the customer as he/she refills their containers?  (With music, sounds?) Maybe.  Non-branded containers may become the choice of the merchant (more profit!), like store brands are today.
  • Refill Truck Revolution.  If individual product packaging and products in bottles as today’s delivery modes recede into the past, will a fleet of electric vehicles someday be visiting your neighborhood to bring you “a premium refill experience”?  Filling your vat when you run low?

So the opportunities inherent in the coming of the Circular Economy, Tom Tapper tells us, present challenges for us as well, especially in that we have to discard the old ways and adapt to change, as in the relationship of the brand and product to the buyers. 

Progress is always about adapting to change.  Just consider for a moment the work involved in the disappearance of those old belching smokestacks and smog over our heads and junk flowing into rivers from outflow pipes.  We are certainly more productive today than ever before!  And that presents many challenges as well – which the coming of the Circular Economy could help us deal with.

We’re reminded here of the favorite quote of the late Lee Iacocca (he was CEO of Ford Motor):  Lead, follow or get out the way – the Circular Economy is coming your way.


Top Stories for This Week

What Will a Circular Economy Mean for Branding?
Source: Sustainable Brands
While a circular economy will present huge challenges to most brands' conventional business models, there are huge opportunities for those who embrace and adapt to this change — while those who drag their heels with incremental changes will undoubtedly fall behind.


Sustainability Standard Setters & Policy Makers

The environmentally responsible logistics of the future   
Source: CSO Magazine 

How companies can source wool more sustainably   
Source: GreenBiz 

Corrugated carton group touts product’s safety, sustainability   
Source: The Packer 

JUMP TO MORE Sustainability Standard Setters & Policy Makers


ESG / Sustainable & Responsible Investment

All in on sustainability – journalists and commentators continue to examine what CEO Larry Fink is saying in 2020 to CEOs of companies in the BlackRock portfolios

Sustainability In Business Is More An Opportunity Than A Threat   
Source: Forbes 

Is 2020 the Year Sustainable Means Investment-Worthy?   
Source: The National Review 

BlackRock is all in on firmwide sustainability   
Source: Pensions & Investments 

BlackRock recommends a common language for sustainable investing   
Source: Finextra 

JUMP TO MORE ESG / Sustainable & Responsible Investment

Corporate Sustainability / ESG

Edwin USA Relaunches with a Sustainable Denim Made by Saitex   
Source: Sourcing Journal 

UM reaches 1 of 5 sustainability goals ahead of 2025 target, report says
Source: MLive 

JUMP TO MORE Corporate Sustainability / ESG

From the Agora: Consumers & Sustainability

How fashion pays lip service to sustainability, while still creating toxic pollution and carbon   
Source: South China Morning Post 

Sainsbury’s net zero pledge: EU retailers ramping up the pressure for sustainable food system transition   
Source: Food Navigator 

All That Glitters Is Not Ethical: 8 Sustainable Jewelry Brands Disrupting The Biz   
Source: The ChalkBoard 

JUMP TO MORE Consumers & Sustainability



G&A Institute Interns during their remote internship learn and master important elements about the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards for sustainability reporting, along with other common reporting frameworks used by investors, such as, CDPRobecoSAM CSA (DJSI), SASB, IIRC, the UN SDGs, and other frameworks. An example of topics and issues of discussion and research during this internship include the concepts of materiality, stakeholder engagement, external assurance, reporting balance, comparability, and many others. All of which is valuable knowledge and experience that can be applied in your studies and future careers

Click here for more information and full description of requirements. Interested parties should submit their resume with required accompanying documentation by February 15th!

G&A Institute Sustainability Update
Informative, insightful, thought provoking
Governance & Accountability Institute's blog focusing on the sustainable world evolving daily before our eyes. Read it, absorb it, question it and challenge.

BlackRock’s CEO’s 2020 Letter to Corporate CEOs – Explaining the World’s Largest Asset Manager’s Perspectives and Actions on the Global Climate Change Crisis

Hello to Year 2020 and the Start of the Third Decade of the 21st Century – Climate! Climate! Climate! is The Dominant Theme of News & Commentary!





FLASH REPORT: 60% of Russell 1000® Are Publishing Sustainability Reports, G&A Institute’s 2018 Inaugural Benchmark Study Shows

FLASH REPORT: 86% of S&P 500 Index® Companies Publish Sustainability / Responsibility Reports in 2018

Learn More About G&A Research



Global Sustainability : Forward Momentum!

Economic growth and environmental sustainability   
Source: Phys.org 

The Industry Reinvents Itself - Sustainability as Gamechanger   
Source: ISPO.com 

What Will a Circular Economy Mean for Branding?   
Source: Sustainable Brands 

JUMP TO MORE Global Sustainability : Forward Momentum!


Sustainability Data That Matter

Cut Back on Email If You Want to Fight Global Warming   
Source: Yahoo Finance 

And if you would like to know more about the recent Davos meeting:

Why Sustainability Was The Star At Davos 2020   
Source: Forbes 


The Sustainability Highlights eNewsletter is prepared by Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. based on continuous monitoring of trends and developments in Sustainability and ESG. Copyrights for other providers are noted where appropriate. Please credit the source if quoted. Content © 2009 - 2020 - All Rights Reserved.

Governance & Accountability Instiute is the "Sustainability Headquarters™" for clients in the corporate, investment, public and social sectors. Based in New York, G&A is a for-profit consulting organization providing a range of value-added strategies, services and resources related to ESG & sustainability to clients in the corporate and capital markets communities. For G&A's full range of services, click on each of the links: Sustainability / ESG Consulting Services, Communications & Recognition Services, Investor Relation Services. For more information, visit www.ga-institute.com or contact us at 646.430.8230 or info@ga-institute.com.