The climate crisis is the single greatest challenge for the Blue Pacific continent. As government leaders globally pursue policies and programs to mitigate this, businesses have also begun to consider their role in environmental and sustainability issues. This responsibility has recently taken on greater prominence, with new research from Deloitte showing that when it comes to environmentally driven purchasing, 2020 was a tipping point for both society and business.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Deloitte’s “Get Out in Front” global research report, which examined consumer views in six different countries, 40 per cent of the public say they are more likely to be actively involved in social issues, with many changing their buying patterns or encouraging others to do the same.
Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Europe’s Trade Commissioner, Jodie Stewart, says this is also evident from her discussions within the European market.
“When meeting with European clients, hardly a discussion passes without the topic of sustainability coming up. One can assume this is now permanent, and part of everyday consumer and business consciousness. The retail sector in particular, has been jolted to action as consumers become further attuned to sustainability issues and demanding of retailers to keep pace with their expectations”
Stewart highlights that one such trend borne from the consumer shift towards climate consciousness is a movement for the purchasing of local products, or ones that have travelled fewer carbon emitting miles.
“For some Pacific products – specifically those in a crowded competitor situation - this ‘local first’ approach can be a barrier to export, and one that, of course, increases with distance. Europe in particular, is a very distant region to the Pacific and is also able to import from closer countries. Because of this, Pacific businesses need to make the most of the trade opportunities available by standing out and differentiating where they can.”
To stand out in the European market, Stewart says there are several advantages that Pacific Island businesses can leverage.
“First, there is immense opportunity to highlight our environmental ‘do-goods’. In the Pacific we have export and export-potential businesses that have sustainable practices; however, more often than not, we don’t publicise these. For example, whether minimizing waste by using by-products, farming, packaging or wrapping sustainably, or a myriad of other environmentally sound practices – these are all benefits that can resonate with consumers. These stories need to be more front and centre.”
“It is also important that we tell our ‘other’ stories well too. The Pacific has a rich cultural history that is interesting to consumers in other parts of the world. When these relate to ‘how’ or ‘why’ a product is produced, we must weave these into product promotion, particularly on labels for retail ready products. The consumer who is concerned about the environment is most likely also interested in the providence of the products they purchase and the people who have been involved in the creation of them”.
Stewart says that while Pacific products have many fantastic points of difference, Pacific Island businesses must remain competitive in their service offerings.
“It is a competitive world, and we must be exactly that. Being a good supplier allows one to further stand out in the market, and to do so, it is essential that our businesses ensure they respond in a timely manner while also producing to the quality and time frame agreed upon. The importers we deal with in Europe have demanding customers and our clients are relying on us. Much like Pacific exporters, European buyers want to build relationships for the long term. They will be loyal if we prove ourselves good partners.”
Stewart says that while the European market presents opportunities for Pacific exporters, it is paramount that in the Pacific we also apply the ‘support local approach’.
“We must support our own local industries and do everything we can to buy Pacific first. This is not only to keep money circulating within our local economies, but also to minimize the Pacific’s own environmental impact through the reduction of imports. Buying Pacific first also allows us to bolster the health of people, as the traditional food of the Pacific is nutritionally superior. Eating locally allows both our economy and people to be healthier, while also reducing the carbon emissions associated with importing.”
“When considering the growing consumer-driven trends around sustainability and where opportunities can lie for Pacific Islands businesses, our Blue Pacific businesses have the advantage of a wealth of knowledge over businesses facing this challenge in other parts of the world. Much of this comes from our ability to draw on the traditional learnings from previous generations who valued waste minimisation, didn’t use plastic bags, and farmed traditionally with respect to the soil, plants, and water. Holding on to values such as these will put sustainability at the heart of any Pacific Islands business. These are practices that many other businesses around the world are trying to implement by layering into their own systems and processes.”
Stewart says that the challenge for Pacific exporters is to find the right niche within market demands, and stresses that the consumer shift towards climate consciousness is one that is of importance for the Pacific region.
“Among other criteria around quality, price and service, the European market is increasingly wanting products that can substantiate being sustainably produced. The opportunity to rise to and fill this demand is ours as much as anyone else’s. This consumer shift towards climate consciousness is beneficial for all of us here in the Pacific, as the more customers are vocal on climate related issues, the more corporations and governments listen. Through this, our Blue Pacific voice can be heard.”
For more information regarding the European market please contact Jodie Stewart, PTI Europe’s Trade Commissioner, PTI Europe at: email@example.com