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#OnShelf: Sustainability factor leads product innovation

by Louise Burgers. It’s all about sustainability this week as these brands prove that investing in the circular economy is good business sense and creates excellent branding opportunities.

by Louise Burgers. It’s all about sustainability this week as these brands prove that investing in innovative sustainable products and campaigns is good business sense and creates excellent branding opportunities as well.

Packaging innovation to creating a circular economy

Innovative and sustainable fresh produce grocery packaging has been developed by Mpact, a South African packaging manufacturer and recycler. This relatively new concept has given shoppers and brand owners an environmentally sustainable alternative to single-use plastic, while building a circular economy. The locally manufactured Freshpact range of paper punnets are made from food-safe, 100% FSC-certified paper material, and can be reused and recycled after use. “Distinguishing factors include the brandability of our product; our revolutionary barrier coatings which are moisture and grease resistant; and the rigidity of the punnets, all of which makes them ideal for withstanding cold storage and transportation,” says Wouter Heunis, innovation and technical lead at Mpact Corrugated. A linear economy takes, makes and disposes. A circular economy, meanwhile, is a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products to ensure value is maximised and waste minimised. For Mpact’s products, this means that what cannot be reused should be collected, recycled and made into new products. “The demand for sustainable packaging in the retail sector is rapidly increasing,” says Heunis.

Puma pilots experimental sustainable sneaker

Puma has developed an experimental version of its most iconic sneaker, the Suede, to test for a product to make it biodegradable. By doing so, Puma aims to meet the growing demand for sustainable products. The RE:SUEDE will be made from more sustainable materials such as Zeology tanned suede, biodegradable TPE and hemp fibres. Circularity is one of the pillars of Puma’s Forever Better sustainability strategy. By 2025, Puma aims to reduce waste by increasing the level of recycled polyester in its products to 75%, setting up product takeback schemes in its major markets and developing recycled material options for leather, rubber, cotton and polyurethane. Launching in January 2022, the RE:SUEDE experiment is the first circular programme to launch under Puma’s ‘Circular Lab’ – a new innovation hub led by Puma’s sustainability and design experts. PUMA aims to share the results and insights gained from this experiment within the industry.

The RE:SUEDE experiment is a pilot in circularity, with the ambition to set new standards of sustainability for the iconic shoe. Designed to help address the challenge of waste management in the footwear industry, the RE:SUEDE experiment will allow Puma to take more responsibility when it comes to tackling the ‘after life’ of its products. In partnership with Puma, participants will wear their RE:SUEDEs for six months to test out the durability of a product using biodegradable materials in real life, before sending them back to Puma via a take back infrastructure, designed to move the products to the next step in the experiment. The sneakers will then be subject to an industrial biodegradation process in a controlled environment by waste specialists in the Netherlands. The goal of this step is to determine if Grade A compost can be produced for agricultural use. The findings will help PUMA assess the biodegradable process and unpick essential research and development for the future of sustainable shoe consumption.

Afri-Plastics challenge to reduce plastic usage 

The Afri-Plastics Challenge has now launched its second strand, Creating Solutions. Individuals or organisations are invited to submit new or early-stage ideas that seeks to reduce or eliminate plastic usage across Sub-Saharan Africa, to apply for the Afri-Plastics Challenge. The Afri-Plastics Challenge is funded by the Government of Canada and delivered by Nesta Challenges. In recent years, the demand for plastic has substantially increased in Sub-Saharan Africa with over 17 million tonnes of waste generated by the region annually, of which only 12% of plastic waste is recycled. While scaling plastic waste collection and recycling is crucial, it cannot solve the problem alone. The Afri-Plastics Challenge aims to reduce marine plastics in Sub-Saharan African countries by finding ways to minimise reliance on plastic, develop new ways of managing plastic waste, and/or develop new uses for plastic that has been discarded. This challenge is designed for innovators and entrepreneurs across the African continent. The Challenge’s first strand, Accelerating Growth, was launched in July 2021 and it is ongoing. By the end of the second strand of the Challenge, successful community-centered products and services will have demonstrated a sustainable approach to reducing the reliance on plastic that also supports the empowerment of women and girls. In the long-term, the development and scaling of the innovators’ solutions will encourage the creation of new, sustainable local enterprises, bringing economic opportunity to these communities and contributing to poverty reduction. For more information and to apply for the Afri-Plastics Challenge Strand 2: Creating Solutions, click here.

CAMPAIGN: Vans revitalises communities through culture

Vans, the original action sports brand and advocate for creative expression, is bringing the Vans Family together to rebuild and revitalise communities across the world in honour of Vans Checkerboard Day on November 18, 2021. This year, Vans will partner with DoSomething.org, a global non-profit whose core competency is driving young people to take action at scale, to invite fans to participate in local and digital activations that help build vibrant, inclusive and rejuvenated public spaces through arts and culture. “Research shows that art and creative expression are not only proven to benefit an individual’s academic, physical and mental well-being, but uplift and improve entire communities, especially when shared in public spaces,” says Doug Palladini, Vans global brand president. “Many of our local community and public spaces have been somewhat neglected since March 2020. As a champion for the power of creativity, we’re encouraging Vans fans to join us this Vans Checkerboard Day in being a part of activities and initiatives that showcase how creativity truly revitalises our communities.” As the brand’s single largest philanthropic initiative, Vans will support 16 charities from around the world which share a mission of revitalising public spaces through arts, sports, culture and social impact programming, by donating a collective $1 million USD. The #VansCheckerboardDay TikTok Challenge will share inspiring community projects, ways to sport your checkerboard pattern and tips for joining in on the celebration featuring Vans ambassadors on what community revitalisation and creativity means to them. For more: Vans.eu/checkerboardday.


Main image credit: Mpact.


Louise Burgers is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of RetailingAfrica.com. She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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