A silver lining to lockdown, aside from limiting the spread of Covid-19, of course, was that for several months, carbon emissions were drastically reduced. A new study suggests that this blip will have a minimal lasting impact, reinforcing the need for a committed green recovery following the pandemic. Companies like IKEA and Unilever show the way forward.

GlobalData’s most recent consumer survey found that 43%* of consumers say that how ethical, environmentally friendly or socially responsible a product or service is always or often influences their choice. The coming recovery presents an opportunity to re-examine supply chains and working practices to make businesses better and then design marketing strategies around broadcasting these innovations.

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IKEA and Unilever are two large companies that have shown remarkable commitment to sustainability, positioning them well for the green recovery.

IKEA has invested in sustainability throughout its client-facing business and supply chain. It has more than 700,000 solar panels powering its stores and aims to start selling them to UK customers.

The company sources 100% of its cotton from farms that meet Better Cotton standards, which use less water, energy, fertilisers and pesticides. Key to its sustainability strategy is analysing every step from farm to fork, or, in this case, farm to furniture.

The company’s foodservice arm also recently announced a more sustainable plant-based alternative to its famous meatballs, made from pea protein, oats, potatoes, onion and apple. Meat is one of the key contributors to greenhouse gas and intensive energy usage worldwide, meaning that enabling consumers to convert to a more plant-based diet will reduce the company’s carbon footprint by proxy. IKEA estimates that if they convert 20% of meatball sales to the plant-based equivalent, that would result in an approximate 8% reduction of their overall climate footprint for the company’s food business.

Unilever introduced its Sustainable Living Plan in 2010, which outlines the requirements the company has for sourcing, supply chain and production. This includes guidelines on water and energy use, worker rights, pushing for a ‘circular economy’ for plastic packaging, where it can be reused, recycled or composted.

Approximately three quarters of Unilever’s non-hazardous waste does not go to landfill and the number of its agricultural suppliers that use sustainable practices has tripled. The company also set an ambitious target to become carbon positive by 2030, eliminating fossil fuels from their operations and generating more renewable energy than the company consumes.

Going forward, companies should continue to attend to human needs, but they should also realise that the climate emergency has not disappeared. In fact, it is present and creates its own human needs now that will only increase as the problem worsens. The climate crisis creates refugees, droughts, floods and large-scale climactic disruption to markets and consumption. Companies must follow the examples set by IKEA and Unilever to play their part.

* GlobalData Covid-19 Recovery Consumer Survey Week 5