Time calls for transparency
The European Commission has just launched a new agenda that promises to combat greenwashing and empower consumers during a digital transition. Could this mean that we are finally starting a sustainable transition?
The restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic led millions of European consumers to try online shopping for the first time, and a large part of them had problems in their “debut”. Misleading advertising and false claims regarding the environment and health were some examples of actions that prevents consumers from making informed choices. The commission’s idea now is to enable a consumer environment based on transparency, and that goes hand in hand with other important goals, such as the Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan.
The agenda is just the beginning of a political brainstorm that promises to be with us for a long time, but different signs points to the same direction. Launched on the last Black Friday, the report by the New Weather Institute think tank and the charity We are Possible examines how the advertising industry has so far escaped scrutiny about its role in contributing to climate change. The over-consumption “holiday” was an example itself, but other unhealthy habits such as excessive meat consumption or smoking were analysed.
This goes hand in hand with the trends on the horizon for 2021 according to the Global Food Forum: functionality and purpose must be the priorities for the food industry. From what it seems, the pandemic led consumers to adopt more and more practices such as buying locally, knowing the producers behind their food and eating according to science-based instructions. In a way, it is comprehensible that we are all looking to keep wild animals away from our plates, but the report shows consumers are also paying more attention to health and community values.
The new normal
We have been rehearsing for a more digital routine for a long time, gradually settling in with the concepts of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. Suddenly, a dramatic change forced us to Zoom Meetings, e-schooling and online shopping, a change without a manual that led us to reflect on whether this was the ‘new normal’. An expression that, by the way, we are all a little tired of.
However, while we don’t know if this avalanche of digital tools is here to stay, we ask ourselves: once consumers have been buffeted with a wider choice of goods and services delivered at their doors, is there any chance of turning back? Adjustments will sure be necessary in the long run, but we believe digitalisation is here to stay, with great opportunities for producers and consumers. So how can you make sure to not lose this wagon?
Sustainability is the goal
When it comes to the food sector, the EU Commission Agenda has a very specific focus: sustainability. Although many argue consumers are not ready to more sustainable diets, a survey conducted across 11 countries found that Europeans are willing to change eating habits for instance, but are hampered by a lack of information, high prices and limited availability of such options. To enable socially optimal absorption of new goods and services, as well as new approaches to consumption, consumers need better and more reliable information on the sustainability aspects of goods and services. Something that the internet can certainly help with.
Innovation as the way to get there
Companies, including small and medium-sized ones, are encouraged to help shape this transition, rather than just waiting for coordinates. It suggests integrating sustainability objectives into corporate strategies and decision-making can result in more sustainable products being made available, enabling a transition. Suggested ways of incorporating social and environmental values range from monitoring environmental impacts, dependencies, and risks across the value chain, to taking consumer interests into account in corporate board decisions.
Although it gives us the creeps to mention the ‘new normal’ again, this disruptive definition fits well with this new challenge. “Providing consumers with better and more reliable information often means improving the existing tools”, the text claims. Indeed. Time calls for better tooling and creative solutions, with the EU Commission even promising to work on smarter labels to better inform consumers and new ways of dealing with all the data harvesting extensively used by retailers.
But while the ideas don’t leave the paper, it is time to be innovative. Exploring tools to tell your products stories is the way to get there. What makes the Fairfood team happy to confirm we are in the right direction!