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Building a Sustainable Future: The Imperative of creating a Sustainable Home

12/11/2023
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In the ever-evolving landscape of societal consciousness, sustainable living has become a focal point for industry leaders. Recognised as a thriving topic, the sustainable home is emerging as a crucial element in addressing resource scarcity and mitigating the negative impacts of resource scarcity and climate change on consumers’ quality of life. This article explores the imperative of sustainable homes, the challenges they face, and the opportunities they present in the context of a rapidly changing world.

The need for sustainable homes is more pressing than ever. As society grapples with resource scarcity and the realisation that current systems are no longer fit for purpose, the adoption of new solutions across all aspects of the home becomes paramount. Homes must evolve to integrate reuse, recovery, and recycling solutions across energy, water, and waste materials, and not just in the home but across the entire lifecycle of products consumed in it. A combination of more stringent legislative measures, evolving consumer needs and mounting cost pressure on both companies and consumers is making this existential. Being part of the future sustainable solution and catering for increasingly complex consumer demands of the home, whilst bringing down the resource-intensity of meeting those demands, will be key in unlocking future growth.Graphic showing resource scarcity

Sustainable home issues cut across all aspects of daily life

11% of global GHG emissions emanate directly from domestic consumption; in developed markets, like the US, this figure is closer to 20%

Source: Euromonitor International

When including GHG emissions from all the products consumed inside homes on a daily basis, this figure is even higher. 80% of indirect GHG emissions in developed economies are related to domestic consumption. Relevant areas of the sustainable home cut across all aspects of home living. From materials going into building renovation and upgrades, the energy that goes into heating and cooling homes to the waste caused by consumables at point of production, use, and their end-of-life.

Cost pressures are aiding sustainable development

In the current inflationary climate and with a rise in net material inflation, there is a growing emphasis on resource efficiency. This ultimately benefits both manufacturers and consumers. It supports manufacturers in maintaining their profit margins amid rising raw material costs.

One third of respondents agree that investing in sustainability is a cost-cutting strategy; saving on materials ultimately means saving on cost. Consumers, who are being challenged by increasing utility costs, are seeking ways to relieve some of these cost pressures.

44% of consumers intend to reduce their energy consumption

Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey 2023

In the short term, innovations promoting resource efficiency in existing homes, led by cost-saving as the primary motivation, are gaining traction. Examples include the recent success of cold wash cycles in laundry appliances and dishwashing, and the sales growth of LED bulbs.

Energy efficiency sits at the core of legislation and sustainable agendas

Home product brands are vital in promoting sustainable development amid regulatory pressure and the need to serve a growing population with limited resources. Being exposed to a relatively higher regulatory pressure, 48% of companies specialising in household essentials are investing in sustainability initiatives to comply with legislation; in packaging, this figure stands at 56%, according to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Industry Survey.

Solutions include self-sufficiency, waste management through biodegradation and composting, and efficient resource use. Legislation on sustainability reporting and consumer demands drive transparency efforts. Scope 3 GHG emissions, mainly from raw material sourcing and consumer product use, constitute a significant ecological footprint. Leading brands have adopted climate action plans and are publishing lifecycle assessments, while 16% of companies across all industries already have a net zero strategy in place.

Table showing brands' committment to sustainability

Consumers care, so brands that do not act will miss out

Consumer sentiment towards homes and the environment has evolved, providing brands with an opportunity to connect with consumers on a highly emotive subject. Guiding consumers towards sustainable choices is not just beneficial for the planet but is also becoming essential for brand reputation and success.

The pandemic prompted a significant psychological shift among consumers, leading to introspective behaviours driven by "waste guilt". As individuals spent prolonged time at home, they became acutely aware of the need for major clearing-out activities, fostering an increased environmental consciousness and a passion to avoid waste.

Beyond that, while cost remains a primary driver of consumer decisions, there is a growing inclination to invest in products that promote self-care and wellness. To some extent, sustainability competes with these priorities over consumer expenditure, but some aspects of self-care expand into sustainability, creating the opportunity to co-promote sustainability and self-care as two highly engaging consumer priorities.

The best solutions are yet to be identified

While the sustainable home of the future will not be created overnight, the window of opportunity for change is closing. The end-of-life conundrum remains a significant challenge, but recent advances in circularity offer a glimpse of how sustainable homes will shape up in the future.

The recyclability and reusability of product packaging are central components of corporate sustainability agendas. Raw material shortages and inflation create a monetary incentive for improving circularity and resource efficiency. Collaborative efforts across stakeholders are essential to create truly circular systems that maximise resource efficiency.

Circular practices are becoming pivotal in shaping home features and product consumption. In FMCG, the focus is shifting from recycling to reuse and biodegradation, while home furnishings prioritise repair, durability, and modularity over disposal. Success in sustainability and resource efficiency will determine a brand's position in the evolving home environment, with stricter regulations likely causing disruption and rendering some products obsolete.

Graphic showing circularity

In conclusion, the sustainable home is not just a trend; it is a necessity for a future where resource scarcity and climate change demand our attention. Companies that embrace sustainability will not only contribute to a healthier planet but also position themselves for long-term success in a changing market landscape. The time to build a sustainable future is now, and homes are at the forefront of this transformative journey.

Read our report Sustainable Home for further analysis on sustainable areas in the home and how companies, legislators and consumers are driving change.  

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