Adding Value through Branded Recycling Solutions

10/25/2016 09:12 am ET Updated Oct 25, 2017

In a highly competitive marketplace, one of the most significant challenges that companies and major brands face today is distinguishing themselves as a social agent. Gone are the days where being "environmentally friendly" automatically added value in a largely niche market for socially responsible corporate behavior. Today's consumer is highly discerning, increasingly concerned with things like supply and production chain sustainability and product recyclability, and highly allergic to ethical claims that are inauthentic, vague or misleading.

That consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products and services is an understatement. More and more, consumers expect companies to dedicate themselves to making a positive social or environmental impact on society as a baseline, and want to be able to trust them to prioritize ethics on their end. It's no new idea that consumer brands that have not embraced sustainability and CSR initiatives are at risk on many fronts. But creating the kind of value that grabs the attention of consumers also requires legwork beyond simply "doing good."

Leading industrial adhesive manufacturer Henkel has found a way to work sustainability into their brand DNA, rather than something that they simply "do." In partnership with my company TerraCycle, Henkel is the first to offer a recycling solution for anaerobic adhesive packaging through the LOCTITE® Anaerobic Adhesive Recycling Program. Also the first time that TerraCycle is recycling this category, Henkel is a pioneer in their use of our sustainability platform in more ways than one.

Henkel is our only recycling program sponsor that has created their own branded Zero Waste Box, a custom recycling solution from TerraCycle that allows consumers to recycle hundreds of waste streams through category specific boxes. Participants in the program can now purchase a postage-paid recycling box branded with Henkel's copy, colors and logo that they fill with empty LOCTITE adhesive containers to send to TerraCycle for processing.

Offering a custom, branded recycling solution adds value for current and potential customers by communicating that solving for its difficult-to-recycle anaerobic adhesive containers is part of who they are. In a currently inefficient global waste management infrastructure, companies like Henkel see the massive ROI potential for putting forth the resources to make their previously unrecyclable product and packaging waste nationally recyclable. By setting their own bar on sustainability and keeping it high, companies add value by pioneering environmental stewardship.

Leveraging environmentally sound and socially responsible processes in the marketplace is in direct relation to how brands communicate to their consumer and differentiate offerings from those of brand competitors. USDA Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified and Non-GMO Project Verified certifications, for example, are recognizable (often on-pack) demonstrations of a brand's commitment to meeting necessary production and labeling requirements, indicating to consumers a certain promise of quality and incentivizing more brands to meet and exceed those standards.

Ultimately, when companies attempt to integrate sustainable enterprise into their branding strategy, transparency is essential. Establishing environmental initiatives is complex, but in order to inspire brand loyalty and trust, those green endeavors must authentically benefit the environment. Branding existing and emerging sustainability solutions is one method for communicating company accountability in a highly visible, valuable way for consumers, scaling for relevance and resilience in a changing marketplace.