Industry Intelligence enhances its Sustainability Monitor with interactive intelligence map that helps businesses understand complex issues, track innovations and learn from cross-industry collaborations
September 13, 2019
– Sustainability affects every organization operating on the planet. Yet it is a complex subject that is challenging for executives to wrap their arms — and their minds — around.
“It’s overwhelming. Therefore, the temptation for companies is to put blinders on just to stay focused and make it manageable – or so they think,” said Rami Ghandour, founder and CEO of Industry Intelligence.
Ghandour recalled his own experience launching sustainability coverage. “When my company set out to get a handle on how sustainability applies to our industry clients, we too started following issues industry by industry, siloing news and insights into each individual industry we cover. However, we soon learned that sustainability isn’t industry-specific, and companies shouldn’t track sustainability based solely on the industry in which they operate.”
Following sustainability topics only as they pertain to a particular industry means companies risk missing the bigger picture, including early warning signs, emerging trends as well as applicable lessons from other industries.
Compounding the challenge further is social media, which now skews the focus, catalyzes the formation of public opinions and accelerates the rate of change of current affairs.
Social media allows the public to “zoom in” on the latest news headline. The issue goes viral with the aid of trending hashtags. Before the sentiment about that issue dies down, a new issue pops up and goes viral.
“It used to be that a major movement would emerge every few years. It would start in one industry and spread slowly to some other industries,” Ghandour noted. “Now, we see something new on any given day and instantly it will spread across the globe on social media, with implications for multiple industries simultaneously.”
Take recycling as an example. Since the creation of the first Earth Day in 1970, the concept has taken nearly three decades to become mainstream and fully integrated in consumers’ lifestyles globally. The movement took root in the 1980s when there was a push to reduce paper use and save trees. The 2000s saw the drive toward recycling plastics. Recently, with social media circulating horrific images of suffering wildlife, recycling is suddenly perceived to be woefully inadequate. The past year saw the fervent push by both the public and governmental bodies across the globe for banning drinking straws, single-use plastics and microbeads.
“All business executives should ask themselves this question regarding sustainability: ‘Do I even know this space aside from using less plastic?’” advised Jason Irving, SVP Enterprise Solutions at Industry Intelligence. “Ten years ago, the public was concerned about recycling, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. Nowadays, if you are serving the Millennials and Gen Z consumers, they are not just looking for environmentally friendly products. They also want to see companies engaging in socially responsible behavior in a holistic sense.”
To solve for these challenges, Industry Intelligence enhanced its Sustainability Monitor to go beyond providing topical news to revealing hidden “relations.”
Content Beyond News
The Sustainability Monitor presents news and insights in a radar graph so that users can see at one glance all of the industries being impacted by the latest sustainability-related events. Users can zoom in on any industry and then zoom out again to see the whole picture.
As users zoom in, they will see not only the most recent sustainability headlines, but also see an interactive map flushing out a wide range of related concepts, such as “Sustainability Goals & Targets,” “Local Sourcing,” “Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-Discrimination,” “Human Rights”, “Waste Management,” “Bio-Based Materials,” “Material Substitution” and more.
“Industry Intelligence’s signature information map is designed to help clients easily digest and understand complex issues, see emerging trends and primary drivers,” said Irving. “By allowing users to zoom in and out, the Sustainability Monitor helps them uncover innovative solutions they might otherwise miss.”
The design of the Sustainability Monitor is based on Ghandour’s knowledge that the next market mover could be coming from anywhere. “It could be triggered by a consumer’s comment, an executive’s presentation or a product design outside your industry,” explained Ghandour. “There’s no single barometer for market conditions and no single predictor for sustainability trends. It’s important for business leaders to have a bird’s eye view on the market as a whole. That’s why our online monitor is dynamically updated, driven by an ever-shifting market landscape. Public outcry, new policy proposal and innovation can happen at a moment’s notice.”
Consumer Behavior and Sentiment
Consumers are arguably the main driver of sustainability trends. They push both governments and corporations to change. The Sustainability Monitor tracks consumer behavior, lifestyle and attitude to help business executives stay in touch with grassroot movements and sentiments as they develop.
Sustainability Monitor subscribers can see that 56% of U.S. consumers say food brands have the main responsibility for reducing plastic waste in food packaging, while 46% say they are willing to pay more for renewable packaging. Another 77% support the shift from single-use plastic to metal. The public clearly believes the onus is on companies to change their business practices.
Elected officials respond to pressure from the public. Lawmakers set public policy through bans, penalties and incentives to modify corporate behavior. The pitfall for business leaders is tracking only the laws and bills in the particular state(s) where they operate. Some executives also like to track California as a harbinger of what’s to come on a larger scale. While hyper-local tracking provides vital information, that doesn’t show the 360-degree picture.
“Business leaders miss some early warning signs unless they also keep tabs on what other governments are doing,” said Irving. “For example, tracking only California wouldn’t have shown that Maine, Maryland and Vermont were the first states to ban polystyrene food and beverage containers.”
The Sustainability Monitor tracks public policy, from proposed bills to enacted laws, locally, federally as well as globally. Sustainability Monitor subscribers know that U.S. lawmakers have proposed extended producer responsibility for plastic packaging, minimum recycled-content mandates, a nationwide container deposit and more, while in Canada, Ontario just announced a transition to full producer responsibility for plastics, printed paper and packaging.
From major international conglomerates to innovative startups, companies invest in research and development to solve for sustainability challenges. In pursuing sustainability, seemingly unrelated businesses are, in fact, very connected.
The Sustainability Monitor shows that personal-care companies are making toothbrush handles from castor bean-based bioplastics and razor handles from recycled yogurt cups. A company in Denmark is making packaging films from fruit waste, which relates to agriculture. A New York workplace design company uses recycled plastic bottles to make soundproof insulation for its “phone booth” cubicles to provide privacy for employees, tying together three industries: plastic packaging, building products and wellness.
“Conventional methods of tracking competitive intelligence apply poorly in sustainability and are full of blind spots. What is the next ‘straw’? What kind of ban is on the horizon? When will that hit you?” said Ghandour. “But following bans is just a reactive, defensive play for companies. The true game changer needs to come from innovations in materials, reuse and waste management. We will see solutions coming from public-private and cross-sector collaborations. That’s why Industry Intelligence invests in a new method of tracking sustainability. Our audiences won’t be blindsided by the next public outcry, nor will they miss out on innovative ideas coming from industries outside their own.”
About Industry Intelligence Inc.
Industry Intelligence (www.industryintel.com) was founded as Forestweb in 1999 to provide market intelligence to industry executives and business professionals. Over the years, the company has evolved with the changing marketplace. We have grown to cover a diverse range of industries: timberland and forestry, wood and building products, paper, hygiene and nonwovens, packaging, food and beverage, beauty and personal care, household care and home goods, consumer health care, retail, logistics and supply chain. We constantly acquire new knowledge to grow with our clients.
Our creed: There’s always a better way or solution. Be creative. Be innovative. Be different.
Senior Vice President, Enterprise Solutions
Industry Intelligence Inc.