Sustainability: For 2009 'change' equals 'green'

It's not just in the recent US elections that 'change' was the operative word. Educated consumers are becoming a primary driving force for change in the marketplace. Nowhere is this more evident than in the power that the word 'sustainability' wields nowadays. And its synonyms — 'eco-friendly, 'low environmental impact,' 'low carbon footprint' and 'fair trade' — are rapidly gaining cachet, as well. No segment of the market — from basic commodities to cosmetics — is unaffected.

As powerful as such words currently are proving to be in the sales of products, market-trend watchers predict that suppliers and manufacturers had better be able to back them up, giving rise to yet another couple of buzz words, 'ethical authenticity.' Even suppliers of commodity ingredients such as palm oil are now succumbing to pressures brought about by the attention of groups like Greenpeace to certify the sustainability of their harvesting practices. Sales of fair trade items in the US are soaring.

Environmental and health concerns are merging, notes industry expert Peter Wennstr?m, president of HealthFocus Europe. This is creating a huge surge in demand for products that meet consumer notions of 'change.' More consumers are putting their environmental concerns into practice by buying products that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.

And just in case more signs are needed, later this month, the first Corporate Sustainability Summit, a new network for executives who lead companies in environmental responsibility and sustainable initiatives, will take place in Austin, Texas. In February, the First International Conference on Sustainable Production, Trade, Consumption and Lifestyle takes place in Nuremberg, Germany.

The rising tide of label readers, combined with the rising pressure on suppliers and manufacturers from the implementation of GMPs over the next few years, means sustainability issues are likely to separate the winners from the losers.

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