The Record - Issue 20: Spring 2021

130 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om F E ATUR E sustainable Creating a Microsoft’s Michelle Lancaster explains why increasing the sustainability of products and services has become a vital goal for retail and consumer packaged goods brands, as well as their customers BY R E B E CCA G I B SON T he recent sharp rise in environmental activ- ism has increased concerns about carbon footprints, landfill waste, the amount of plastic in the oceans, and the detrimental effect this is having on people, animals and the planet. Many people have been inspired to re-evaluate the way they live and identify what steps they can take tominimise their personal environmental impact, pledging to reduce or eliminate single-use plas- tics, finding ways to recycle or repurpose items, and shopping and travelling more consciously. “For the past six or seven years, research has suggested that many consumers – particularly in the younger generations – consider the sustain- ability credentials of a product as an important factor when making purchase decisions,” says Michelle Lancaster, director of sustainability partnerships, sales and products at Microsoft. “Some studies even showed that these customers would theoretically be prepared to pay higher prices for more sustainable products and ser- vices. However, it’s not until recently that we’ve really seen a shift in purchasing behaviour to support these claims. “Today, consumers are making it clear that they want to know what raw materials are being used in products, whether they are being ethically and sustainably sourced, the total carbon footprint of the manufacturing and shipping processes, and the impact the item will have on the environ- ment once they are finished with it.” Cognisant of these new customer expectations and the immediate need to protect the planet’s finite resources, a growing number of retailers and con- sumer packaged goods (CPG) brands are setting new environmental targets and investing signif- icant revenue to become more sustainable. Many are beginning to embrace the circular economy, which is based on the principles of recycling, refur- bishing and repurposing or reprocessing products and materials to eliminate waste, pollution and the continual use of finite resources. However, transi- tioning to a circular economy business model is challenging because retailers and CPG brands sim- ply do not have access to sufficient data. “Organisations must be able to calculate the total environmental impact of every single opera- tional process and every individual product from product lifecycle