Red Cabin summits are globally celebrated events bringing leaders from across the transport world together to discuss all things travel. This shared knowledge has immense benefits in terms of introducing new innovations to transform the way the travel industry operates.
As it happened, ELeather were invited to fill one of the speaker slots during the Aircraft Cabin Innovation Summit earlier this month and talked about reducing environmental impacts through the use of sustainable materials. We have over a decade of experience supplying our sustainable, engineered leather to the aviation industry and we’ve been working with the world’s largest and most innovative airlines on some amazing projects. Each of those could have been a great starting point for our talk.
Instead, we decided to bring a little outside perspective into the world of transport in a form of one of the most progressive and pioneering companies in the world – Nike. Nike’s Move to Zero campaign is a commitment to reduce the sportswear giant’s carbon emissions and waste to zero and is based around material innovation including our very own product – Flyleather.
Our Head of Sustainability, Lee Whitton, was joined by Nike’s Director of Sustainable Footwear, Kyle Wood, to discuss the importance of circular design and the positive impact of selecting sustainable materials.
Here are the 4 key takeaways from the Nike/ELeather seminar:
1. Don’t Stop the Conversation on Climate Change
Climate change, global warming and sustainability are the keywords that seem to creep in to almost every major conversation, no matter the topic or market. Despite that, search engine trends show that we’re searching less for these keywords than we did back in 2019. We must not let our consumers or passengers become numb to it though, we must continue the conversation in a meaningful and engaging way and listen to the younger generation voicing their opinions.
Almost half of those age 13+ consider climate change to be the most important issue facing society today and 81% of them note climate change as a personal responsibility (source: Nike). This generation is already putting pressure on brands to act on their environmental promises and before we know it, will be the main buying power.
2. Collaboration is the Key to Success
Sustainability issues are approached by many organisations on a “let’s swap X for a seemingly more sustainable Y” basis. But, those fixes often don’t stand the test of time as the sudden growing demand on the “Y” uncovers that the substitute is not that sustainable after all.
Instead, we must re-imagine the product creation. Go back to the raw materials of your shoe, aircraft or just about any other product and strip it right back to its parts. Analyse LCAs of your various components and follow them right to the raw material stage to identify the most significant improvements to be done. To do this, however, we must collaborate – with our partners, suppliers, vendors, factories and even competitors.
3. Small Incremental Changes Lead to Significant Effects
We all know the proverb: Rome was not built in a day. And while many use it as an excuse to procrastinate, it can also be used to illustrate the point that many, seemingly small incremental changes eventually lead to an impressive end result.
Using data to identify the most pressing areas in need of improvement is a good start. Nike, for example, had done a lifecycle analysis to understand the full carbon impact of their product, from material sourcing to end of life solutions. By discovering that 80% of their footprint is driven by material choice (raw material extraction, processing and manufacturing) they outlined steps in the process to improve this statistic.
Whilst it’s good to be ambitious, this approach makes the company much more focused in their environmental journey and more likely to meet the sustainability goals outlined in the Move to Zero campaign.
4. Relationship Building is Crucial to the Consumer Buy-in
As already mentioned, the next generation (Gen Z) is speaking louder than ever and believe brands have direct responsibilities to tackle climate change. This means that in order to resonate, brands must not only commit to action but also redefine how they think about their consumers, customers, travellers etc. It goes back to re-imagining the product creation but also re-designing the premises of a relationship between a brand and its audience.
The new generation values relationships, not transactions. They want to have a voice and be heard, expecting a two way dialogue style communication rather than being talked at. They want brands to align with their personal values and they want brands to partner with them on a journey to more sustainable future. Their message to us is: be useful or get out of the way.
This is by no means, an exhaustive list of great, thought-provoking insights from the Red Cabin summit. We hope that our session with Nike provided some useful wisdom that can be taken from the world of footwear and applied to the aviation industry.
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