Sustainability Must Deliver Value To Make Tangible Impact

Recently the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag announced Beyond the Bag, a series of tests and first-of-a-kind multiretailer pilots to advance sustainable alternatives to the single-use plastic bag and accelerate their potential to scale. The goal of the consortium is to identify, pilot and implement viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag.

Initial tests are planned across nine CVS Health, Target, and Walmart stores to determine technical feasibility and desirability, and identify which solutions bring value to both consumers and retailers. Among the pilots are startup offerings that tout "enabling tech" that can extend a bag’s lifespan/use, incentivize consumer use, provide transparency, offer reusable bags for home delivery service, and more.

It’s a smart effort and a savvy opportunity to drive impact on both the earth and companies' bottom line.

Sustainability is a crucial passion point for consumers, governments, and plenty of industries. By innovating and rethinking the retail bag, the Consortium is leveraging technology and human ingenuity to determine which consumer behaviors they can impact, as well as which consumer demands and frictions can be simultaneously solved in-store (even if it has nothing to do with saving the environment or ice caps).



Testing a rotating group of prototypes will provide insight into what works, what behaviors can be impacted, and -- ideally -- what the most efficient solutions are to solving the issues created by the single-use plastic bag.

What’s interesting are the high-tech solutions being tested, tied to the notion of reusable bags. Among the startups in the pilot are: Fill it Forward, a digital tag and app that connects to reusable bags customers already own, offering opportunities to support charity organizations, earn rewards and track environmental impact. ChicoBag's service, powered by 99Bridges' Mosaic app, enables customers to borrow reusable bags on-site and get rewards for each reuse. GOATOTE is a kiosk that customers can use to borrow clean, reusable bags anywhere a kiosk is found.

Tech’s ability to take a classic medium (in this case, the plastic bag), and evolve both the tangible product and use cases can be critical to unlocking value in how you tell your brand’s stories and bring them to life in-market and throughout the purchase journey.

But before we even get to the technology, marketers need a solution-first (not tech-first) mindset. What’s critical to understand in this reusable bag pilot program is the emphasis on delivering value for all stakeholders across the value chain. It’s not solving or alleviating frictions impacting the retailer, the brands, or the consumer; it’s seeking equitable solutions that ensure all stakeholders get something out of it. And that is exactly what brands should be doing.

As marketers, we need to identify the challenge (business and/or consumer facing) and determine the solution that ideally delivers value to all involved. How technology can help bring that solution to life is secondary. The insights-driven defining of the problem and the goal solution must come first if you seek to drive true, tangible, longer-term impact.

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