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Top take outs from Decoded Future

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1HQ’s 3D Structure & Experience team attended the Stylus Decoded event in London last week. The event, focusing on sustainability, promised an “electrifying take on the cross-industry trends that matter, where key findings would be combined with ideas and advice from the creative industries’ brightest minds”. It certainly delivered; the talks and discussions were thought provoking, sometimes bleak and frankly overwhelming, but there are individuals, brands, governments and businesses who are engaging and solving the most pressing issue of our time. 

Some of our key take outs:

The need for harsh truths

Although the level of awareness is growing amongst people, there is still plenty to do in conveying the gravity of the situation we and future generations face. It is now the time to hit harder with facts that illustrate this. Here are some that we heard…

  • We are each responsible for the destruction of 4.5 trees per year. 
  • Globally we are consuming at a rate of 2 times the resources that we produce; at current levels of consumption this will be 3 times by 2050.
  • 525000 tonnes of household appliances are thrown away.
  • 70% of freshwater is used food production.
  • 75% of the world’s food today is generated from only 12 plants and 5 animal species.
  • There would only be a 2.6% reduction of CO2 emissions if we all went vegan.
  • There is wealth in waste with only 9% of 10.4 million tonnes of waste being recycled.

Only today, we read in the Telegraph that people ingest on average 5 grammes of microscopic plastic particles a week; equivalent to the weight of a credit card

Branded Pollution

Sian Sutherland, the founder of A Plastic Planet, spoke about recycling and how it is not working (with only 9% recycled in the UK and the rest sent to Asia). She claims producers are simply making ‘branded pollution’. Watch out for this term as I think it will catch on. Building upon this, watch Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani in the BBC’s ‘War on Plastic’ present a supermarket exec the branded plastic packaging they personally dug up in an abandoned recycling facility in Malaysia. Our current recycling infrastructure is coming under scrutiny, and frankly it’s not looking good. It’s yet another poorly regulated at best, or downright untruthful, opaque sustainability story.

Naked Packaging

We saw a talk by Adam Goswell from Lush. Amongst several things, he spoke about the growth of naked products – products that have no packaging. He explained these are gaining momentum. They are trialling ‘Naked’ stores around the world where they don’t use secondary packaging on the products through their ‘Lush Labs’. As part of this they are working with Google on an open source product recognition/AI app that provides a space for Lush to talk about their products and enables consumers to access relevant product information in lieu of any labels.

Shipping Water

According to Science News, “some 3.5 billion to 4.4 billion people around the world will live with limited access to water, more than 1 billion of them in cities, by 2050”.  Yet here in the “developed” countries we are addicted to bottled water, believing it is better for us than tap water.  Interestingly, the BBC’s ‘War on Plastic’ told us the mineral content in the bottled water was roughly the same as water from the tap.

Localisation Strategy

An entertaining final discussion from ethical and sustainable US shoe manufacturer Allbirds. The MD of Europe, Sandeep Verna, who only recently launched the brand in the UK and Europe, spoke about the differences between markets and the importance of getting the localisation strategy right. In the US the tagline is ‘comfy shoes that come naturally’ yet they changed this to ‘easy on the feet, light on the planet’ for the UK and Europe. This shows how perceptions around sustainability differ throughout the world.

New Paradigms 

Global businesses are exploring new paradigms to create a more circular relationship with their customers. IKEA has announced plans to become a circular business by 2030. This involves renting rather than selling furniture to consumers. They are trialling a furniture-rental scheme in Switzerland this year, initially limited to office furniture such as desks and chairs.  

Three Cs

The wrap up from Stylus focused on the next steps for businesses and the transitions required, which can be summarised as the following three ‘C’s:

  • From simply conversation to active commercialisation,
  • From empty communications to complete commitment,
  • From consumers’ addiction to convenience to considered behaviours. 

We left Decoded Future with mixed emotions yet a very positive message: We’re all in this together, we all have to do our part. Be that as consumers with our purchasing decisions, as creatives with our work, in business ensuring full lifecycle responsibility, and as messengers spreading the word that we have to act now.


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