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Changing the World: How Technology Can Maximise Social Impact

Fox & Hare catches up with TechXperts on tech and brand sides to hear how they harness technology and impact initiatives to scale brand awareness.

Published in September 2020, Nielsen’s most recent report has found that a staggering 73% of consumers would definitely change their consumption habits in order to reduce their environmental impact. AI, blockchain and emerging technologies present an opportunity to leverage sustainability, social impact and ethical sourcing in some of the world’s largest industries. It’s interesting to see brands who have recently put these technologies at the forefront, and benefited immensely from doing so. As social impact specialists in the brand space, creative consultancy Fox & Hare are interested in the future of using technology to increase brand awareness alongside impact. By using technology within this space, it can help differentiate a brand or company from its competitors and gives them a niche advantage. Fox & Hare caught up with TechXperts on both the tech and brand sides to hear first hand how they harness technology and impact initiatives to scale brand awareness. It looks at how brands can combat issues such as overstock and waste, their carbon footprint, and supply chain transparency.

From Batch to Real-Time – How AI and Blockchain Can Prevent Overstock and Waste

To start, we spoke with Tony Pinville, the CEO and co-founder of Heuritech, on how his trend forecasting AI technology has helped the likes of fashion industry giants such as Louis Vuitton, Adidas, and Moncler achieve ‘an unprecedented competitive advantage’ through sustainable production at the planning stage.

F&H > Heuritech has a trend forecasting precision rate of 90%. How has this tech helped brands tailor their planning strategies to reduce overstock?

Tony > In order for fashion brands to reduce overstock and optimise their production, Heuritech provides data-driven trend forecasting to help brands better plan their collections. Our technology analyses images from social media in real-time to forecast trends, which gives brands the necessary insights to then plan their collections. This kind of comprehensive data gives brands the opportunity to be clinical in their collection planning, and as a result, to avoid overstock. For example, in our Festive Seasons Report for European womenswear 20/21, Heuritech predicted that for Winter 2020, metallic fabrics are down 14% from last Winter. With that information, a brand now knows not to include this particular trend in their assortment this season – in this way, overstock and waste are prevented very early on, even before the design process.

F&H > Fashion is a notorious contributor to landfills. Can you provide an example of how Heuritech has helped reduce waste in this industry?

Tony > As we know, overproduction is one of the most detrimental aspects of the fashion industry. According to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report 2019, for example, clothing production is expected to hit 102 million tons by 2030, which represents a 64.5% rise from 2017. The principal reason for this overproduction is often inaccurate demand predictions in terms of both quantity and variety. One of our clients needed to decide if they should include chunky black sneakers in their collection or not. Heuritech’s analysis found that the trend would indeed continue to rise, particularly among edgy women in Europe. We even determined the precise shape of this shoe that would be most desired, and as a result, our client increased their sell-through by 15% and drastically reduced the number of markdowns in this category.

Food waste accounts for 6% of all global greenhouse emissions and £770m in losses globally, which is why it is so important for applicable businesses to address it. Shane Munro, VP food and beverage, Accor Northern Europe, talks about how the Accor Group partnership with blockchain-based food waste management company Too Good To Go helps elevate Acoor’s standing as a global brand and impact leader.

F&H > Accor’s partnership with Too Good To Go helped save almost 400,000 meals from going to waste across the European Accor properties since 2016. How does this partnership play into your brand purpose?

Shane > The fight against food waste is an integral part of the way we operate as a corporate citizen around the world. We recognise that food waste is a significant problem within the hospitality industry and by partnering with Too Good To Go we hope to reduce this waste by making surplus food from our restaurants available to customers. Doing so not only helps to reduce our carbon footprint as a business but also has a positive impact in the local communities our hotels are based in. High-quality food is available at great prices and consumers know that by making an order, they are having a positive impact on the environment.

Sustainability as a Service: How Tech Companies are Moving into Carbon Negative Futures 

For our next interview, we chatted to Andreas Slettvoll, CEO of CHOOOSE, on how his climate platform technology is helping the travel industry and consumer-facing brands use digital touchpoints to engage consumers in climate action.

F&H > A major selling point of your service is that you give clients the choice in the CO2e-reducing projects that they partake in. How does this enable your customers to take action aligned to their strategic objectives?

Andreas > CHOOOSE offers technology and API integrations built to eliminate any friction that keeps companies from acting on climate change. This means that we enable our partners to spend time and efforts on what really matters; driving impact. CHOOOSE actively sources a global portfolio of impactful climate projects from which partners can select their climate compensation programs. This enables our partners to easily offer seamless climate compensation that fits their corporate values and consumer preferences. We believe the freedom to choose is key, as we know that many brands use the Sustainable Development Goals as a compass when building their sustainability strategies. Allowing our partners to select projects from the SDG goals that are aligned with their values and strategies, enables them to compare and measure their positive impact based on the realisation of the SDGs.

F&H > How do your customer-facing climate compensation programs via CHOOOSE Connect help companies engage their customers?

Andreas > We founded CHOOOSE on the belief that the climate crisis has a communication problem. That we need less doomsday talk and pointing fingers to avoid apathy, and more optimism to inspire action. This way of seeing things is also reflecting the way we work with our partners. Our purpose has become to do everything we can to change the narrative on climate communication by sharing words, news, and content that makes people understand that their actions matter. Our contribution is to cheer instead of spreading fear and to help engage as many as possible into the mindset that if we all do a little, it suddenly becomes a lot. For some partners, we also engage directly with their customers by providing a digital space to view, understand and share their personal climate impact from their interactions with the brand. We’re actually launching a new and engaging feature for end-consumers shortly, so stay tuned! The campaign invited Viessmann employees, partners, friends, and family to collect as many kilometres as possible for the climate, either by bicycle or by running. For every kilometre run and every three kilometres cycled, Viessmann supported tree planting and forestation projects around the world through CHOOOSE. Viessmann employees, family, friends, and trade partners cycled and walked a distance of more than seven times around the earth. In total, over 5,000 participants from more than three dozen countries participated. Not only did it boost internal engagement, and health benefits – they also supported the planting of 150,000 trees. This is a great example of how a brand can create an internal engagement to boost a positive impact that its customers can (hopefully) also get behind.

Lasso Loop’s pre-purchase program manager Kieran White shares how consumers can take actions towards reducing their carbon footprint and joining the recycling revolution. An innovative recycling appliance that makes used materials 100% recyclable, Lasso Loop is needed for the sustainability of our planet and will play a pivotal role in the transition towards a circular economy.

F&H > What are the challenges in the world of recycling?

Kieran > Recycling currently has two major problems – purity and accountability. The most common materials used and subsequently discarded are plastics, glass, metals and cardboard. If we use plastic as an example, currently only 9% of the total produced plastic is recycled, which means 91% goes to landfill per year (that’s 7.5 billion tons, which is equivalent to 22,000 Empire State Buildings!). This is because the different types of plastics are currently discarded and collected together, and subsequently mixed, which contaminates the vast majority. This means they can’t be recycled in an efficient or accurate way, so nearly all 22,000 Empire State Buildings-worth are sent to landfill. Alongside this, due to the size of the industry, no single organisation is being held truly accountable, while many are profiting from their negative effect on the planet. Lasso believes the power can be in your hands. When you purchase a product, you also pay for the packaging, it only makes sense that you choose where it goes and profit from its value. In short, the Recycling industry is in desperate need of innovation. Therefore, the power to change Recycling for the better of our environment lies with every single one of us. This is why the Lasso appliance is needed.

F&H > How does Lasso Loop address these challenges?

Kieran > Lasso is an appliance for your home that collects, cleans and processes used materials and stores the subsequent products, all from the corner of your kitchen. Each product is stored separately, maintaining 100% purity and subsequently allowing it to be 100% recycled (that’s right, from 9% of plastic recycled from your home to 100%! – from 22,000 Empire State Buildings of landfilled waste to none). We guarantee every single piece of used material that enters the appliance will be recycled, landfill is a dirty word at Lasso, hence we will never contribute to it. As a result of the near 100% purity achieved, we know exactly what is recycled, holding us accountable. The true value of your used materials is also unlocked through purity, meaning you’re able to earn cash from the recyclable products you produce.

Addressing the Consumers’ Rising Demand for Supply-Chain Transparency 

For our final interview, we caught up with Josephine Rode Bager and Mikala Alexandra Wilson Skov, founders of London start-up Marleybones: a dog food company using blockchain technology to share the full story, journey, and sustainable impact of each product from farm to bowl. They talk to us about how supply chain transparency goes hand-in-hand with their product offering.

F&H > Marleybones has partnered with Provenance blockchain technology for supply chain transparency. Can you talk to us a little bit about the reason for implementing this tech in your business model?

Josephine & Mikala > It all started with Josephine’s dog, Marley, who constantly had stomach issues from his food and struggled to gain any weight. As a worried dog-mum, Josephine scoured the entire market for a healthy diet for Marley. But what she found was tonnes of mystery ingredients and unverified claims, leaving every dog owner puzzled about the content, quality and origin of the meals. In fact, the poll of UK dog and cat owners reveals that the nation’s knowledge of pet food ingredients is extremely low, with over 62% admitting to not knowing what they’re really feeding their pet. A common meal composition will include ingredients such as ‘meat-meal’, ‘vegetable-derivative’ or ‘meat by-product’, which doesn’t resemble anything of the meat or veg you would serve up at home. Even more shockingly, the words we do understand, like ‘chicken’, can be labelled on dog food if it contains only 4%. It’s an industry that hasn’t evolved for so long, and the result of this is waste products such as feather and blood, with no nutritional value, ending up in our dogs’ food, and the heart-breaking fact is that the average lifespan of dogs eating low-grade food products has dropped 11% in just a decade. And that’s a number we can’t stand by and watch. Alongside claims of quality and content crowding the pet food space, examples of greenwashing have started to emerge, in an industry that sadly has a detrimental impact on our environment and farming practices. To give one example, we have nearly 10 million dogs in the UK alone, eating nearly 40% of our nation’s meat production. That’s equivalent to 400 million chickens ending up in dog food each year. You will find that most of these are caged chicken in spaces smaller than an A4 sheet. That’s why we at Marleybones are trying to make a difference, not only for the lives of our dogs, but also the lives of farming animals cramped away in cages, workers’ conditions and unnecessary waste. Using real, human-grade ingredients to provide honest, nutritious food that will ensure happy, healthy companions, and sourcing these from conscious farms in the UK to help protect our earth and all it has to offer. Through the transparency platform Provenance, we are able to provide a tamper-resistant proof that we’re doing exactly this. When we say that all our proteins stem from animals raised in harmony with their natural environment, we show the free-range chickens, grass-fed lamb and cattle and hand-reared salmon we are using. When we claim that our supply chain contributes to a low-carbon economy, we show how our suppliers use renewable energy and limit food waste in their farming practices. And when we claim that Marleybones is the sustainable, healthy choice for your dog, you too can be the judge of that.”

F&H > How has the implementation of this tech steered communications around Marleybones product offering and social impact?

Josephine & Mikala > It’s quite simple – implementing this tech enables us to communicate exactly what our product offering is, and what social impact we have. Without all the propped-up branding, wordplays and empty claims, but in a simple, consistent way directly to shoppers. By laying all our cards on the table, consumers will know exactly what they are buying into, who they are supporting and what they are feeding, without any of the guesswork. A brand isn’t a result of its end-product alone. We believe it’s important to understand the work behind the product to fully understand the impact of what you’re buying. This technology allows us to communicate more than just the story of our products – we’re able to show every single part of our products, right down to the third generation family that grows our carrots, the pioneer that decided to grow the very first chia and quinoa in British soil and the pair of brothers who lovingly rear their free-range chickens while running food charities! We’re sharing each of their histories, credentials, accomplishments and approach to food, so consumers know who they are supporting when choosing Marleybones.” F&H > Do you expect the implementation of supply chain transparency to increase customer loyalty? Josephine & Mikala > By far the majority of pet owners agree that they pay as much attention to the ingredients that go into their pet’s food as the ingredients their family eats, and that it’s important that the ingredients in their pet’s food are ethically sourced. The problem resonates in the challenge of figuring out what you actually are feeding your dog. By providing the full story, journey and sustainable impact of each meal, from farm to bowl, we invite all customers to assess our meals and understand the impact behind what they’re buying. We’re hopeful that being completely transparent, open and honest will help build consumer trust.

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