Visualizing Circularity for Today's Consumers

Trends / Sustainability
Klaus Vedfelt
Jacqueline Bourke
Jun 1, 2021
For today's consumers, sustainability is shorthand for a complete moral system of cultural values, beliefs and attitudes. This can seem very abstract when it comes to actually visualising sustainability as a cultural value that shapes society. Many companies around the world are making the transition from linear models of ‘take‑make‑waste’ to more circular systems which promote the continual use of regenerative resources—and with a simple motto of ‘waste not, want not,’ circularity is now cited as the next frontier of sustainability. However, brand communications often focus on visualising the operational transition to a circular economy, rather than the everyday cultural shift to a circular way of life. This presents a key opportunity for brands to communicate how they are shaping and leading this circular culture in order to foster wide‑spread adoption. In order to achieve this, a transformative and holistic vision of a circular economy that is human‑centered, inclusive and accountable is needed.
With a simple motto of ‘waste not, want not,’ circularity is now cited as the next frontier of sustainability.
Data from Getty Images' Visual GPS research which surveys over 10,000 people in 26 countries has consistently shown that the need to visualise what we're doing for a sustainable future has gone mainstream. From reducing our carbon footprint, to reusing and recycling, to appreciating and protecting nature's beauty, consumers want to see more consistent action and less greenwashing. They want to see the shift to social sustainability and a circular society. 8 out of 10 consumers now expect brands to have sustainable practices, support the local communities in which they operate and, above all, be environmentally aware in all of their advertising and brand communications.

Interestingly, the top four actions that consumers believe will have a positive impact on the planet are also the actions they say they have taken recently ‑  pointing to a shift towards circularity:

1. Recycling
2. Stopping the use of single‑use plastics
3. Reusing, repairing or purchasing second hand instead of buying new
4. Using environmentally friendly products

However, there is an increasing gap between intention and action. Nearly half of consumers globally say while they know they should care more for the environment, convenience takes priority. While indexing lowest for Europeans (41%) and highest for Asian consumers (63%), the younger you are, the more convenience also wins! This indicates that consumers want to do better, which means that there is an opportunity for brands to educate them by showing new sustainable concepts around the circular economy.
Key Questions to Consider when Visualising Circularity

  • Inclusion
    Are you showing circularity that is inclusive? Are you empowering all by representing all?Are you challenging generational stereotypes? Are you considering the different approaches to showing what matters most around sustainability to different age groups?

  • Action
    Do your visual choices inspire action?
    Are you using new sustainable concepts, and showing positive and negative impacts?
    Are you inspiring with collaborative sustainable innovation?

  • Localisation
    Are you bringing it back to the individual? Are you personalising stories at a local level?
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