If you look on the shelves in just about any store today, you are hard pressed to find a product that is not emblazoned with some form of “green” label on it. And it’s no accident. CPG companies know that sustainability is no longer just a fad; consumers’ demand for environmentally-friendly products is not waning. In fact, it has grown so strong that consumers no longer just want green products, they also want to know the companies that make—and sell—those products are doing good for the world across their operations. Retailers have been quick to take note of this and make adjustments at all levels of their businesses—Walmart and Ikea are two examples among the many that have implemented changes in areas of their supply chains, expansion efforts, marketing and so on.
As both CPGs and retailers prepare to operate in this new-normal environment, merchandising supply chain companies can serve as a critical missing link that can not only enable better collaboration between the brands and stores, but also can leverage their understanding of consumer habits to get the maximum value—fiscally and environmentally—out of each and every sustainability effort.
There are several simple, yet impactful ways merchandising supply chain company are working with their clients to increase sustainability with limited additional work. This joint-value model is becoming common-place, not just for sustainability but across strategic initiatives.
Corrugated cardboard, shrink wrapping, and the like may not conjure up images of environmental friendliness. But forward-thinking merchandising supply chain companies are changing that perception. Many have made commitments to using more—if not all—recycled materials, and creative design work is allowing some displays to be used for more than one season. A clever use of two-sided materials or pieces that can be added and removed in a matter of minutes, coupled with merchandising supply chain companies’ ability to work closely with retailers to secure floor space, enables displays to have a longer shelf life than ever before, and at the same time, stay fresh in the eyes of shoppers.
In the old days, CPGs spent a lot of time moving around product. It went from one warehouse to another as it made its way from manufacturing through packaging and fulfillment through to making it onto store shelves. And in the process, a lot of fuel, packaging materials, time and money were wasted. Now, merchandising supply chain companies can manage all of these steps from onelocation. By working with a single vendor—often in a single location—to manage the entire integrated merchandising supply chain (IMSC) process, the entire operation becomes more lean. In turn, CPGs are able to reduce or eliminate unnecessary materials and fuel, as well as better control inventory, increase speed-to-market and better understand total cost of ownership.
Think Like a Consumer
Merchandising supply chain companies have become very sophisticated when it comes to knowing how their clients want to address sustainability—they have solutions, staff and the expertise to meet even the most specific requirement or demand. But will the output resonate with consumers? Smart providers now have methodologies in place to know that their green efforts will not only meet sustainability standards set forth within their client’s organization, but will also attract consumers when they are in the retail environment.
Forge the Path, Don’t Follow It
We are still very much at the beginning of this sustainability journey. Trends may shift and consumer preferences may change, but they will undoubtedly still be tied to the same notion: doing what’s right for the world we live in, both the people and the environment. Smart CPGs and retailers will work with one another—and their partners—to create a set of best practices that are driven by their consumers wishes and that others in the industry will want and need to emulate. Organizations like the Foundation for Strategic Sourcing (F4SS) are already doing interesting work to unravel what’s next in sustainability and how merchandising supply chain companies can help their clients achieve success in the market as a result.
Jeff Sharfstein is president and CEO of The Strive Group. The Strive Group is comprised of four operating entities that design, manufacture and pack-out point of purchase displays for major consumer products companies. A fifth entity, Strive Logistics, LLC, provides transportation solutions to display customers and others. Jeff Sharfstein began his business career with Pride Container Corporation, a company founded by the Sharfstein family, in 1968. He left in 1990 to start World Distribution Group (now Strive Logistics) and returned to Pride Container Corporation as its president in 1997.