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Trends of 2021 | POC rounds up the trends and achievements of 2021

Tue 21 Dec 2021 | 12:50 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

POC rounds up the 2021 trends

From circularity on the high street to the latest innovations – from the inspired to the outright insane – in the materials space, 2021 has been a year like no other for sustainability across not only the consumer industries, but within the consumer landscape itself. If it achieved little else, COP26 placed the urgency of Climate Change Action firmly within the public’s mind this year and acted as a stark reminder that it will be businesses and business leaders on the front line that will drive change before legislation and government commitments do. Brands of course will play a central role in conveying and perpetuating this message among the consumer space, and the very fact that COP26 found itself housing so many of them this year is an encouraging reflection of recognition of the role businesses like yours will have to play in leading this conversation into the future. So, with that in mind, we have decided to offer our round up of some of the biggest trends and achievements to have emerged from the sustainability movement over the past 12 months. Circular Economy When George at Asda launched its partnership with PreLoved Kilo and Yellow Octopus at the beginning of the year, the stage was pretty much set for a new dawn of circularity within the mainstream retail space. Suffice to say that since its campaign with PreLoved Kilo really took off in March this year, George has witnessed higher sales of second hand clothing than it has its own collection – highlighting that the demand for circular options is certainly on the rise. Nowhere was this better demonstrated than within new, agenda-setting research to launch via Kids Industries and Products of Change’s ambassador for the children’s market Gary Pope. Findings this year revealed that second hand toys placed the second most popular category of toys among children and families across both the UK and the US, while parents on both sides of the pond are now calling upon greater sustainability from toys and toy companies. And the toy industry has certainly been moving to answer that call. In fact, three of the world’s leading toy companies – Hasbro, Mattel, and LEGO – have now implemented toy take back schemes in recent years. Mattel was the latest to join the circularity efforts with the launch of its PlayBack scheme across the US and Europe this year, a system by which parents and children can return well-loved toys to be recycled and their materials used to create… you guessed it, new toys! “Reception to the PlayBack programme, both in the US and in Europe, has been very positive and has provided a significant amount of learning in these first six months since launch. Some of that learning will inform product design and material considerations that aim to make products easier to recycle in the future,” Mattel’s head of global sustainability, Pamela Gill-Alabaster told Products of Change. It was a rather large feather in the cap of circularity this festive season when the High Street department store, Selfridges partnered with the London-based charity, The TOY Project to bring a second hand toy pop-up shop to its Oxford Street flagship store this Christmas. As part of the retailer’s Project Earth campaign to offer consumers more sustainable alternatives, the partnership has been billed a resounding success, and has highlighted that children ‘are not only willing, but eager to buy second hand toys.’ A greater reflection and real-world example of the same findings revealed by Gary Pope’s research earlier this year simply could not be asked for. Here at Products of Change, we’re convinced that we will only see this trend grow stronger in the coming months and years. Brands playing their part Good gravy, you guys have been busy this past year! How do we know this? Well, you’ve been telling us all about it – of course! Plus, the numbers speak for themselves: Products of Change membership has hit milestone after milestone over the past 12 months, while it is by our calculation that almost 90 per cent of the companies who attended our Sustainability in Licensing Conference this year have now built a sustainability division, team, or strategy into their business. And that’s fantastic. Cooneen by Design took home a Licensing Awards 2021 trophy in the sustainability category this year for its inspired partnership with Brand Threads and Hasbro for its Peppa Pig range having fought off some very strong competition from across an industry charged with excitement to deliver real change in this area. The Best Sustainable Licensed Products category not only grew in popularity but in the breadth of submissions, too with innovation being pushed in both sustainable models and materials being adopted in their production. And what can we say about the innovation coming through in that materials space? Plastic made from salmon sperm aside (yes that’s real, and no, we’re never going to get over it) the world of material innovation is hugely exciting right now (and not just for those few happy fish). The toy space has been leading the charge in researching and delivering new innovations across plastics, whether it’s LEGO developing its prototype brick made from PET plastic or Mattel introducing the Barbie Loves the Ocean range of dolls made from 90 per cent recycled materials. “Our sourcing of recycled, bio-based and responsibly managed materials is helping to drive development of sustainable materials and markets and infrastructure,” said Mattel’s Gill-Alabaster. “Material innovation is vital for advancing circularity in the toy industry. In fact, material selection is one of Mattel’s guiding principles for circularity. “Our product engineers and materials scientists work are continuously exploring novel, sustainable materials while our design teams imagine how those materials could be used to create innovative products and experiences that inspire, entertain, and develop children through play.” The most exciting bit? We know that as companies like Mattel, LEGO, Hasbro and many others, continue to invest in material innovation, the best of it is yet to come. An end to Greenwashing Shoppers are becoming more discerning, transparency is becoming increasingly vital, and society’s tolerance of greenwashing has definitely faded. To top it all off, and in a move to stamp out the pariah of sustainable advancement for good, the Competition and Market Authority is stepping in with its Green Claims Code… and we dare say it will be setting a few agendas in the new year. The Code will act to clamp down on misleading or ambiguous terminology used in the marketing of products to consumers. No more will phrases such as ‘Good for the environment’, ‘Green’, or ‘Environmentally friendly’ be accepted at face value across packaging or marketing, without being substantiated and proven. Introduced in September this year, the code sets is all out in 13 key principles, core among them are that: Claims must be truthful and accurate Claims must be clear and unambiguous Claims must not omit or hide important information Claims must only make fair and meaningful comparisons Claims must consider the full life cycle of the product Claims must be substantiated With Products of Change members and businesses across the consumer industries making such encouraging and inspiring efforts towards better sustainability already, we can only imagine that the code will be welcomed by those acting to implement real sustainable change across their business and products. It will be interesting to see just what impact the implementation of the Green Claims Code will have across industries as we move into 2022. Could it be the year that we wave goodbye to the greenwashers for good? Whatever it achieves, we're sure there'll will be plenty of conversation to drive the movement forward in its entirety, and we can't wait to be at the forefront of it all come the New Year.
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