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How the FMCG sector is taking the sustainability route for a better environment in the future It is no wonder that the FMCG sector, responsible for over one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, is fast incorporating sustainable practices in its procedures and methods right through the production chain while also informing the consumers of those newly-introduced changes.

By Manish Aggarwal

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Even as the FMCG sector remains a critical driver of the larger economy, the FMCG businesses are increasingly embracing principles of sustainability and environmental responsibility in their operations. For their part, galvanized by what they have been witnessing in terms of ever-rising temperatures and frequent extreme weather events as a consequence of climate change and global warming, consumers too have made a pronounced tilt towards environmentally-sustainable consumption. In other words, they have become sustainability advocates to protect the environment, and their purchases of FMCG products are increasingly driven by a careful consideration and choosing of cleaner and greener eco-friendly options.

Today, sustainability has become a prominent issue in the scheme of things for brands and consumers alike. It is no wonder that the FMCG sector, responsible for over one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, is fast incorporating sustainable practices in its procedures and methods right through the production chain while also informing the consumers of those newly-introduced changes. As a result, there have been some signs that the FMCG sector has been curtailing and tempering its negative effects on the environment.

Some of the primary sustainability movements and practices that we are observing in the FMCG sector today include:

1. Sourcing of eco-friendly ingredients and material – FMCG companies have begun to source and procure eco-friendly ingredients and raw materials from sustainable sources for manufacturing today. Certain brands are shifting from using of plastic inner separators and paper to sustainable options such as plant-based alternatives including specific leaves and bamboo etc. They are also actively recycling non-eco-friendly material present in their supply chains and using the latter to minimise waste.

2. Going for sustainable packaging – Packaging and particularly plastic packaging has been one of the biggest challenges for environmental preservation and sustainability. So, with that in mind, fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables are being delivered in plant or paper-based wrappers or even in reusable cloth bags. Switching to biodegradable, reusable packing alternatives is a great zero-waste option. And consumers for their part are ready to spend extra to purchase cloth carry-bags at stores, in case they forget to carry their own bags. Another back-to-the-roots alternative is to encourage the use of refillable containers or allow the customers to opt for the bring-your-own-cup alternative. This would help consumers in making a contribution towards reducing the ever-mounting burden of single-use plastic bottles and containers at landfill and waste disposal sites.

3. Making efficient energy use– There has already been an increased trend among FMCG manufacturers as also consumers wherein the traditional incandescent bulbs are being replaced with LED lights, a gold standard in the industry, and that is cutting down on energy consumption by as much as 40 percent. The next big shift will be to use renewable energy for sustainable manufacturing and distributing procedures. Company-wise commitment to using only zero-carbon electric vehicles by a certain date is becoming more common as is investing in dry factories with closed-loop water systems. Sustainability stands now at the core of FMCG's business strategies with the sector making constant efforts towards using cleaner power and energy sources.

4. FMCG consumers inclined to opt for eco-friendly labels – Environmentally-sensitive consumers today are in tune with the latest sustainability labels on FMCG products and understand the meaning and significance of such labels. So, they are keen on supporting companies that show that they care for the ecology and enthusiastically contribute toward it. So, FMCG companies active in the sustainability sphere by supporting environmental causes and speaking about it on their social media platforms and in advertisements are buying the trust of consumers as well as their mindshare. Today, it is not only important that an FMCG company takes the environmental sustainability route in its souring, production, distribution and sales operations and strategies but also it must be seen to be doing so.

In sum, that both manufacturers and consumers are making a pivot towards environmentally-sensitive products is a heart-warming development today. However, this sustainability drive must be continued and sustained in the longer run.

Manish Aggarwal

Manish Aggarwal, Director, Bikano, Bikanervala Foods Pvt Ltd

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