A key challenge in shifting consumer behaviours in more sustainable directions is a phenomenon known as the “action-intention” or “say-do” gap.
Dr. Kate White, Professor of Marketing and Behavioural Science at UBC Sauder School of Business, explains, “Most people have fairly positive attitudes and intentions around sustainable actions, but when you go in and look at what they actually do, they don’t always follow through with their stated intentions”. Recent research shared by Dr. White, shows that while 65% of consumers say they want to buy from purpose-driven brands that contribute to sustainability and social-impact, only about 26% of the same consumers actually make such purchases.
That's why SRRI started our SHIFT program and piloted it from January to May 2021. The SHIFT Program includes the following key steps:
Unique to the SHIFT Program was the use of BC’s 7 Motivations for Lighter Living to gain deeper insights into target markets. These distinct motivations segment the BC population by their dominant motivators, attitudes, and behaviours related to lifestyle choices and consumption patterns in five key areas: eating, stuff, moving around, home, and general lighter living.
Fulfill Shoppe, a zero waste store from Greater Vancouver run by sisters Pam McEwin and Lori Crumpe, participated in the SHIFT Pilot Program. Fulfill Shoppe delivers nutritious pantry staples, coffee, snacks, and eco-friendly beauty, household and cleaning products to suburban families. This purpose driven, sister-run business is “your journey to low waste living,” removing wasteful packaging by delivering locally sourced goods in refillable jars and bags, which at the end of each use, Fulfill Shoppe collects, cleans, sanitizes and recirculates for more refills. Remember the milkman? This system is as easy as that with no fuss, mess, or waste.
Participating in the SHIFT Program provided Fulfill Shoppe with invaluable insights about how to apply specific SHIFT factors to engage target markets and increase sales. Pam McEwin, Fulfill Shoppe co-owner, shared that the SHIFT program “was super helpful and [we learned] a lot of takeaways and lessons that we are going to continue to A/B test and go forward with."
Fulfill Shoppe’s target behaviour was to drive traffic to their product page, get people to add items to their cart and then purchase them - with the goal of increasing sales. The four test ads they developed were designed to speak to the values and needs of their target audience of women aged 28 to 45 who live in suburban communities, many of whom identify with the Healthy Life & Planet and Eco-Trends motivations for BC. The ads tested the Social Influence and Individual Self SHIFT factors, emphasizing benefits such as convenience, easy online ordering, ditching harmful single use packaging, accessing healthy and tasty snacks, one stop shopping, and the availability of products suited to a range of dietary needs and preferences.
The top two performing ads demonstrated that a combination of Social Influence and Individual Self factors were effective at reaching key audiences. However, a key learning for Fulfill Shoppe was that ad reach was not indicative of an increase in items to cart and purchase for new customers. Instead of attracting new customers to buy their products, the ads acted as triggers to remind repeat customers to reorder online. As such, Pam and Lori realized that habit formation, the “H” factor in SHIFT, was also integral to increasing regular ordering and sales.
These reflections are adapted from Alice Henry’s closing remarks at WCEF 2021. You can view those remarks here, as well as the full recordings from Day 1 and Day 2.
We heard time and again over the two days at WCEF 2021 that circularity is not a new concept, but still a vital one to the wellbeing of our communities, both human and non-human. The world we find ourselves in touts layers of complexity, and yet people across the world are also connected by more than ever before, be it through virtual connections, vast supply chains, or values that transcend cultures, geography, and language. That is our first step in this journey after all: understanding that which binds us and the systemic hurdles that can be more easily overcome through collaboration. Game changers cannot thrive in isolation.
As Carol Anne Hilton said in her address, a return to circularity can be looked at “as a chance to return to humanity itself.” Many of you are familiar with Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, but what I often find myself referencing even more is her model of The Embedded Economy (pictured below), “which nests the economy within society and within the living world while recognising the diverse ways in which it can meet people's needs and wants.”
Over the past decades, many lifestyles and the systems that support them evolved to prioritize speed, convenience, and more more more. Those of us who have been working in this field for years have surely questioned when the breakneck pace of development might slow or when public opinion would begin to pump the brakes long enough for other visions of a better life, a better future, and better systems to uphold them might take root. We’re now seeing that happen, and we’re seeing young leaders at the helm pushing these conversations forward in their homes, their schools, their communities, and on the world stage.
We heard from speakers that the costs of a linear economy have disproportionately burdened communities of color across the world, and it’s time that those communities are not only invited to the table, but that their needs are centred in the conversation and they are given the lead to change the course. Let’s be humble in our approach to collaboration. After all, we do not know what we do not know. We do not all need to be experts on every single aspect; let people share their lived experience and lead action in their communities. The circular economy cannot only empower people to take action for a better society and to mitigate climate change, but the circular economy can also create inclusive jobs and make goods and services more affordable and accessible. These qualities can make a transition to the next economy more just and prosperous, though we need to keep in mind that a circular economy does not inherently guarantee justice and inclusivity, so we need to keep those goals at the forefront of our minds.
We also heard that a circular economy is a return to nature, that beyond preserving the value of resources, we have the opportunity to regenerate and replenish our natural systems. These systems are not only critical to our own wellbeing, but to the many species we share this planet with. We need to think beyond our current borders and boundaries to realize fully circular systems rather than standalone circular solutions.
We will need to make changes both incremental and systemic, as individuals and as a collective. Everyone is engaged in the circular economy, it just might look different for different people. The reasons, the motivations behind their actions might not be linked to circularity, or even to sustainability, but everyone still engages in the circular economy. What we need to ask is how the circular economy eases the challenges people in our communities are facing. What are the other ways we might frame the circular economy outside of sustainability? Living in harmony with nature and in an economy that prioritizes human wellbeing should be anything but dull; adopting circularity can fill our lives with joy, experiences, and connection.
As we move on from these two days at WCEF 2021, I want to echo the remarks made by Professor Ishii on Day 1: It’s time to raise ambitions. We have a pretty good idea of the road that lies ahead of us, and it’s not easy. Most of the changes we need to see have to be made in the next 5 years. However, today we have more avenues by which to get there. Agile SMEs and cross-sectoral collaborations are demonstrating what our future can look like, and we’re starting to see the finance sector shift towards supporting their efforts. We can mimic natural systems in our innovations, and we can honor and uplift Indigenous peoples and the traditional, land-based knowledge they have learned over time immemorial within our pursuits. We can pivot from an economy focused on growth to an economy focused on rich ecosystems and vibrant, full lives.
I come to events like WCEF for the fire I feel in my stomach afterwards. I get reinvigorated to not just do the work I show up for everyday, but to do the work not being done, to fill the gaps I see in my community. As you all discuss outcomes and how to get there in the weeks and months ahead, consider what actually needs to happen to change the game and who needs to be alongside us to make it happen.
by Isaac Yuen, Recycling Council of BC
SRRI is so happy to include this blog post from our colleague Isaac Yuen, who has recently been in Germany and shared his trip to NochMall with us. Isaac works at the Recycling Council of BC (RCBC) and has been a regular contributor and attendee to our Repair Working Group. Isaac always has great ideas about communications and sharing stories, so we are so happy to share this story of his.
Both these concepts are reality in Berlin, Germany. Operated by Berliner Stadtreinigungsbetriebe (BSR), the largest municipal solid waste management company in Germany, NochMall is the first department store for used goods in Berlin, offering a second life to quality furniture, clothing, appliances, housewares, and much more across two distinct store concepts. Driven by its corporate strategy to promote reuse as a keystone element for waste diversion in accordance with the region’s Recycling Management Act, BSR opened NochMall as a non-profit venture in the summer of 2020 with the motto of “alles ausser neu,” which translates to “everything but new.” Their goals are as follows:
The DIY/plywood aesthetic is clean and functional; signs for each section are cleverly crafted from old materials that add to the ambience. An upstairs café with comfortable seating adds to a relaxed and comfortable shopping experience; there is even a dedicated event space to hold repair cafes, zero waste talks, and used furniture auctions.
"Department store, platform, workshops and events - NochMall is becoming a synonym for re-use and sustainability.” - Frider Söling (Managing Director, NochMall)
Regular repair cafes and upcycling workshops are also held in this space, reinforcing fun and educational components as part of the regular retail experience. The Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection also has plans to organize zero-waste events one floor above the pop-up location, leveraging existing retail spaces to promote circular economy concepts towards a demographic that goes beyond the environmentally conscious crowd.
This holiday season, ask yourself: What would it be like to shop with the planet in mind? What if you can come away from a retail experience with nothing but a new set of skills? What if you can find that perfect present that would otherwise have gone to the landfill? NochMall Berlin offers one tantalizing vision of what is possible—it’s now up to us how to adopt and adapt this model for our region as we move towards a circular economy. Tell us in the comments what your vision for a circular hub in BC looks like.
Isaac Yuen is an Environmental Advisor at the Recycling Council of BC, a non-profit organization that facilitates the exchange of ideas to eliminate waste through the BC Recycling Hotline, the BC Recyclepedia, and the BC Recyclepedia smartphone app.
Information from: www.nochmall.de; images by author.
The Right to Repair movement is growing around the globe as consumers and businesses seek ways to more easily and affordably repair their items - from household goods and electronics, clothing and computers up to large appliances and farming equipment.
The Right to Repair movements is focused on passing legislation overcome a host of barriers to repair. Barriers consumers face in repairing their own items includes hard-to-repair design, companies claiming intellectual property over the information and parts necessary for repair, and repair being more affordable than replacement.
While the Right to Repair movement has gained traction globally, it faces powerful opposition, yet continues to be bolstered by online communities and advocacy organizations.
The 2018 International Repair Day pushed for the Right to Repair, focusing on access to information, parts, and equipment needed for repair, as well as making items more durable and repairable. In the European Union, the Parliament approved recommendations to make it easier to repair electronics like laptops and cellphones as well as extend their lifetimes. There are also proposals for items like lighting, televisions, and large appliances. In the US, 20 states have filed legislation for the right to repair electronic products. There is also legislation at both the federal and state level for legislation establishing the right to repair for independent auto repair shops. In Canada, Ontario MPP Michael Coteau introduced a private member’s bill that would amend Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act that would make electronics repair easier for individuals and repair shops. Quebec’s Bill 197 also hopes to outlaw planned obsolescence as well as bolster consumers’ right to repair.
Though advocates continue to push this legislation, they face opposition from powerful corporations. Claims from these companies include consumers attempting repairs to their phones might cause the lithium batteries to catch fire or cut their fingers on broken glass if they try to repair the screen. Apple lobbyist Steve Kester claimed the right to repair could open up opportunities to hackers, which security experts have shot down. These companies have in some cases also filed suits against unauthorized repair shops or individuals teaching how to repair their items over spaces like YouTube. They claim the information and parts needed to repair their items are protected under intellectual property laws.
Despite such opposition, repair knowhow is spreading through online forums and channels, as well as through in-person workshops. Online resources like the Open Repair Data Standard, iFixIt, RepairMonitor, and Fixometer aim to make repair information, such as data and manuals, accessible through open source. Meanwhile, organizations like Repair Café (Netherlands) and Fixit Clinic (US) run repair workshops that enable people to learn how to repair their items.
In Vancouver, groups like Repair Matters, Free Geek, Frameworq Education Society, and MetroVan Repair Cafes run workshops to teach consumers the skills they need to repair their items as well as offer free repair. Items include kids’ toys, clothing, electronics, and more. At the Share Reuse Repair Initiative, we are looking at how consumer demand for repair can be better met through repair workshops and government policy.