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How the licensing business is starting to go green

The Source looks at how the business is contributing to the environmental conversation.

“As licensing matures, the business is finding time to consider in greater depth the many factors outside of the purely commercial that go to promote good practice,” says Kelvyn Gardner, md of LIMA UK. “For example, over the last ten years we have seen some fantastic work by LIMA members on nutrition and healthy eating, with significant quality improvements across many licensed food products.

“Sustainability and wider environmental issues are natural themes for licensing to address next.”

With consumers now much more aware of the damage that some items – in particular plastics, plastic bags and packaging – are doing to the environment, they are demanding that action is taken.

Within the greeting card sector for example, virtually all cards are printed on FSC board and companies are exploring sustainable cello bags (or even unwrapping them altogether), while UK Greetings has set up a dedicated Environmental Steering Group to investigate and pledge to greener solutions.

One company which has been closely involved with creating an ethical range is Brands with Influence through its work with Kate Humble. HUMBLE is a range of non-polluting, sustainably-sourced products using natural ingredients and recycled packaging. There are currently 11 skus that are being stocked in Waitrose, Booths, Whole Foods, Amazon and a range of independents.

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Martin Lowde, md of Brands with Influence (pictured above right with Kate and Dom [Wheeler]), explains: “Forward thinking retailers like Waitrose realised and related to the ethos of the brand. As they try to push forward a sustainable agenda, products like HUMBLE were seen as really important.

“This year sees the introduction of a new range of skin care and beauty products under the HUMBLE brand to compliment the toiletries range all ready on sale. Another 11 products will be in retail this autumn. All with the same great product qualities and same environmental ethos.”

Martin believes that more environmentally-aware products will enter the licensing arena, too. He says: “It’s going to affect everything from product design to packaging. More and more consumers are looking to purchase products that are considered to be sustainably sourced and are recyclable. It makes great sense for the licensing industry to lead in this important area of change through thought leaders like Kate and brands like HUMBLE.”

Meanwhile, in the licensed apparel space, Fashion UK md Gurdev Mattu has written on LicensingSource.net about how millennial attitudes to sustainability will continue to influence the fashion industry and the importance of ethical fibres, such as cotton.

“There is growing interest in sustainable materials, including bamboo, hemp and regenerated cellulose like viscose, as well as ethically produced cotton,” he explains.

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National Geographic has been leading research in environmental issues for the last 130 years and has been part of all key scientific milestones, space exploration, flight, Polar expeditions and animal research to name a few. This ethos is something which also carries through to its licensing business, as Helena Mansell-Stopher, director of UK licensing at National Geographic Partners (pictured above), explains.

“We will be driving two key areas of the business, the first aligning closely to some of our core initiatives, for example the issues around marine plastics,” she says. “We have already started aligning with our key partners – Original Buff is launching a line of products using recycled plastic for SS19, while JJ&C, our luggage and accessory partner, will be launching a new collection of recycled PET plastic for SS19.

“Our new collaboration with Clarks will have a sustainable message, and our new partner First Natural Brands, which is launching a health and beauty line, will use recycled packaging and ingredients that are 100% natural. We are also in final conversations for shopping bags, water bottles, homewares and much more.”

The second area will be to drive the kids business to educate the next generation, Helena explains.

The rise of new materials – such as new yarns from marine plastics, yarns and plastics made from old fishing nets and plastics from bamboo – mean manufacturers can start to incorporate them into their plans.

Helena continues: “With a subject that is so big, you have to start small – packaging is something that I know many manufacturers are looking at reducing, manufacturing using renewable energy sources… there are many ways to reduce our environmental impact without it costing the earth.

“With the power of a brand’s voice, licensing should be leading this conversation to the consumer.”

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Toy pledges

A number of key toy companies have set out goals to work towards to minimise the environmental footprint of their operations.

Hasbro: Earlier this year the company announced it would begin using plant-based bio-polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for blister packs and plastic windows in its product packaging starting in 2019. Back in 2010, it eliminated wire ties; in 2013 is replaced polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with PET; and it achieved 90% recycled or sustainably-sourced paper for packaging and in-box content in 2015.

Hasbro uses 100% renewable energy and is carbon neutral across its US operations, and has achieved 99% across all global operations. In addition, the company is pursuing a set of ambitious environmental goals for 2025. Meanwhile, it announced a toy recycling pilot programme in the US to coincide with Earth Day in April.

LEGO: The LEGO Group is aiming for 100% sustainable packaging by 2025. Steps the company is taking to improve the sustainability of its packaging include using recycled plastic in packaging ‘blisters’, while approximately 75% of cardboard used to make LEGO boxes comes from recycled material. The average size of a LEGO box has been reduced by 14% over the past four years, improving transport efficiency, saving on average every year over 3,000 truckloads and 7,000 tonnes of cardboard.

Meanwhile, production has started on a range of sustainable LEGO elements made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane. The new ‘botanical’ elements will come in varieties including leaves, bushes and trees.

Mattel: The company’s website says that it looks to make continuous improve through its three related platforms – design it with the end in mind; make it with eco-efficiencies; and live it with personal commitment. Mattel’s Sustainable Sourcing Principles state that the company is committed to advancing the use of sustainably-sourced paper and wood fibre in its packaging and products.

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2018 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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