Sustaining Our Future

Sustainability is a term that’s picked up traction as we’ve collectively had an increased awareness of our place in the world, the effect on it, and the part that we play in paving a way to a brighter tomorrow for future generations. While some terms can seem to be used just for the sake of trendiness, sustainability is a word that’s increased usage cannot be stopped due to it’s importance and visibility. As forerunners in the promotional world, it’s up to us to make use of this term to our best ability to help our clients make informed decisions about their power to bring sustainable products to those far and wide.

Sometimes we see new words thrown around such as “synergy” and “freemium”, and it’s hard to tell if certain terms have lasting power or are just a passing fad – however sustainability has a weight to it where everyone can easily do their part to find sustainable alternatives of their favorite products, which sets it apart as an active term that’s more commonly used more and more.

Sustainability is as hot a topic as ever in our consistently changing world and throughout the promotional products industry, but there’s reason to believe the concept has staying power—with all the visibility now surrounding our role in the climate and earth’s future, sustainability is a term that’s going to last. Per PPAI Media, products sold on the grounds of their sustainability saw a 20% increase in 2022.

Such data suggests sustainable promo products aren’t just an idealistic fantasy, rather they’re an attainable aim for the promo industry. For practical insight into the reality of sustainability in promo, we recently spoke with Pierre Montaubin, Chief Product and Sustainability Officer at Koozie Group.

Increasing Demand for Sustainable Promotional Products

Montaubin has extensive experience in product management and sourcing, and he’s seen his share of flash-in-the-pan product fads. Even so, he envisions a powerful future for sustainability in promo, stating:

“We are seeing ongoing interest in sustainable promo products, and I believe demand will continue to grow,” said Montaubin. “Younger buyers are especially concerned whether brands align with their values, so I think this is the new normal for our industry and not a fleeting trend.”

His estimation matches broader trends. Per a recent Forbes survey of consumers:

  • Almost 30% said they want to improve the environment.
  • 23% wish to reduce production waste.
  • 22% are aiming to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • 17% are concerned with animal welfare.
  • 7% cited social signaling; in other words, to be recognized as being a good citizen.

An amazing Business News Daily survey reported 72% of respondents intentionally purchase more environmentally friendly products than they did even just five years ago. Montaubin sees these tendencies playing out across the promotional products industry, influencing end users’ preferences for sustainable branded merchandise.

“We believe that demand from customers is going to drive adoption [of sustainable products],” said Montaubin. “Demand for sustainable products will be more of a pull from consumers versus a push from distributors.”

Montaubin cites a recent Forbes article reporting Generation Z consumers are the most likely to spend more on sustainable products; they are influencing not only their Generation X parents but also their baby boomer grandparents; and as they grow into adulthood, their influence and income levels are predicted to grow, thus their environmentally conscious buying habits will carry even more weight in the marketplace.

There’s a variety of different factors that come into play to showcase that a focus on sustainability and environmentalism is in full effect. While we all have a shared mindset of coming together to do what’s best for the planet and the future, promotional distributors and suppliers have the responsibility now more than ever to ensure that they find innovative ways to approach this new mindset.

Supplying Sustainable Promotional Products

To meet this growing demand, Montaubin suggests distributors continually educate themselves regarding sustainable products and practices. The next step is to ask clients:

  • How do you define sustainability?
  • What criteria do you use to determine if one product is more suitable than another for the health of the planet?
  • What information do you need to ensure you’re meeting your companies’ sustainability guidelines?

“I think we all—suppliers and distributors alike—need to do a better job at helping customers align their brands with the promo products they buy from us,” said Montaubin. “I think this is the key. You will gain trust and potentially additional business by being the ‘consultant’ and the voice of customers, making sure the giveaways they are about to put their companies’ logos on reflect their values.”

Ensuring Promo Products’ Sustainability Claims

To maintain trust and credibility with clients regarding sustainable promotional products, suppliers and distributors must be able to dig deeper and verify the products’ quality and sustainability claims.

“Suppliers who stand on solid ground with their claims should be eager to provide this information to distributors,” said Montaubin. “Just because the word ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’ shows up in the product description doesn’t make it better than another product.”

Careful vetting helps align products with buyers’ sustainability standards, rather than simply “greenwashing”—the all too common, dishonest practice of making a product appear more environmentally friendly than it really is.

To make sure you have all the proper information to stay on top of this, Montaubin recommends building a network of trusted suppliers who have a reputable approach to sustainability.

Overcoming Price Concerns

The aforementioned reports indicate customers’ environmental values increasingly inform purchasing decisions; more and more, sustainability factors into purchases along with price. Still, it’s not uncommon for clients to balk at the cost of sustainable promotional products.

“Generally speaking, there is a premium on products made from post-consumer materials because it is more expensive to collect and sort than virgin material,” said Montaubin.

Montaubin anticipates this price gap will shrink as demand for recycled materials increases. But for now, he suggests if this price gap is too wide, distributors should consider offering items made from pre-consumer recycled material. This would include items made from manufacturing scraps, such as recycled polyester made from excess plastic from bottle production. Pre-consumer material carries a lower premium and can therefore serve clients as a better entry point into the sustainable promo product category.

Regarding the higher price point on products made from post-consumer materials, Montaubin suggests emphasizing the products’ longevity, which adds extra value in the form of increased brand impressions over the products’ lifetime.

Sustainability Initiatives in Promo

Another way for promotional product suppliers and distributors to encourage loyalty is with their own sustainability initiatives. Eco-conscious clients will welcome the opportunity to work with promotional product suppliers or distributors who share their values.

For example, Koozie Group developed an initiative called Keep It. Give It., a program which embodies the company’s passion for environmental stewardship, among the organization’s other core values. This included developing a distinction called the KG Factor to identify products with a high likelihood of being kept or gifted, as determined by a third-party, independent firm.  The KG Factor was Koozie Group’s way of addressing products that may not have an eco-friendly option.

“Over 70% of our products now carry this designation—way above the 50% we were hoping to achieve,” said Montaubin. “And we’re committed to 75% of new products earning this designation.”

Promoting Sustainably, Your Way

We hope Montaubin’s insights and Koozie Group’s strategies will serve as a valuable example, helping to inspire and transform the way that we think about environmentalism as well as sustainability.

At Extend Marketing, we highly value wellness on a spiritual and physical level, so we’re always happy to help find and promote more sustainable options so that we can be a part of our community of promotional distributors that take charge in leading the way to a healthier, brighter, and more aware future.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any sustainable options, please make sure to contact Extend Marketing here!