Often, companies that manufacture consumer goods find themselves under a particularly unforgiving spotlight. Industry insiders can be tough in their criticisms of firms' sourcing and procurement practices, but consumers themselves are considerably more demanding in their expectations when it comes to sustainability.
With eco-friendliness, fair trade and other concerns increasingly becoming subjects of public attention - and many individuals displaying very strong feelings about these issues - the consumer products market has little choice but to amend its practices in light of the developments. Two of the most critical segments of the market - clothing and food - have already made considerable headway in this regard.
H&M holds suppliers accountable
Producers of basic, essential goods are easy media targets for failures in sustainable product sourcing, and clothing manufacturers are no exception. Yet despite the problems in supplier transparency and ethics that often accompany offshore manufacturing - a widespread procurement practice in the industry - some companies in this space are making clear that they are serious and committed to their efforts
Quartz contributor Sarah Labowitz, co-director of New York University's Center for Business and Human Rights, recently profiled the efforts toward sustainable supplier management made by major apparel manufacturer and retailer H&M. In December, the firm announced a plan to ensure that 850,000 employees who work for its strategic sourcing partners, primarily in Asia, would be paid a "fair living wage." H&M is set to begin putting the plan into action with its suppliers in Bangladesh and Cambodia in 2014, and if the model proves successful, it will soon be expanded to 750 more factories.
"It's an ambitious plan that expands the company's longstanding efforts on workplace issues in its supply chain," Labowitz wrote. She suggested that consumers could feel confident that "this is at least a serious effort" on the part of H&M to hold its supply chain accountable for its business practices.
Food trucks: the sustainable restaurant?
The restaurant industry is another subject of consumer attention regarding sustainability. But the food sector is also a hotbed of trends, and one of the most popular development in recent years has been the burgeoning food truck scene in a number of American cities.
The Kingstonist recently raised the question of sustainability in reference to these "slick mobile eateries," pointing out that their size requires them to be particularly careful about water consumption and energy efficiency.
"They have the potential to be eco-friendly green machines," the source wrote.
Hopefully, 2014 will see increased demand and success for innovative strategies in sustainability among firms in this space.