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My initial thoughts for my latest Consumer Trends consideration for just-drinks were to write about how drinks companies can make alcohol more fun, thereby breaking down barriers with consumers. Last week's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, however, made me feel that such frivolity would be somewhat remiss.

Last weeks report from the IPCC warned of catastrophic damage to the earth if we fail to limit global warming, going forward

Last week's report from the IPCC warned of catastrophic damage to the earth if we fail to limit global warming, going forward

Only those who are truly burying their heads in the sand would have missed the report that stated the planet has 12 years to drastically slow down its carbon emissions, in order to keep the rate of global warming below 1.5°C. The IPCC also warned that the majority of the responsibility in making these changes lies with government and business - yes, that means you - but that consumers can also make a big difference.

Included in the report was a list of positive changes that all citizens can make: eat less meat (one portion of red meat a week is recommended), walk more, use video-conferencing rather than flying for meetings and use public transport more often. Also, and, more pertinently for us, consumers should demand lower carbon creation from every product they consider buying.

My questions, then, are ones that the public will start to ask you very soon: What is it your business doing to minimise its impact on the environment? Is it all that you can possibly do? Or, have you been avoiding certain actions because they'd be more difficult, or costly?

By turning our backs on making our businesses as ecologically-friendly as possible, we risk shooting ourselves in the foot with consumers. Eventually, in certain low-lying markets, we may not have consumers to sell to.

This sounds dramatic, I know, but when I read terrifying reports such as this, then I can't help but start to imagine the collapse of society as we know it.

In the last seven days alone, I've switched to a locally-grown seasonal organic fruit and vegetable initiative. That grape addiction I had, where the fruit has been flown from Chile or Greece in plastic packaging? Immediately stopped. I've also dropped my usual shampoo and conditioner to packaging-free bars from a company opposed to animal testing, and am about to move my bank account s to one that supports clean energy rather than fossil fuels. 

I've also learnt how environmentally-damaging the fashion industry can be, with its chemical pollution and heavy water use, and have pledged to only buy second-hand or from ethical brands, going forward. The next step will see me cut red meat out of my diet completely.

Granted, I am but one single Millennial who has made most of these changes in the space of a week. But, I'm sure I'm not alone. Chances are there's a whole army of us, carrying out audits of the products we consume and cutting out those known to be bad for the environment.

The worry on my social media channels has been palpable this week; Gen X'ers and Millennials sharing stories of doom, or information about particularly polluting industries, and tips on what we can do. The fruit-and-veg scheme, new bank and hair products all came from recommendations by others. I've passed those tips on, and I'm sure the cascade will continue.

Here in the UK, businesses got a taste of consumer outrage when the television programme Blue Planet revealed the damage to our seas from plastic pollution. Many of these businesses have subsequently made changes, pledging to minimise their single-use plastic.

Imagine the consumer sentiment to follow, then, if businesses continue to avoid making changes regarding their carbon emissions until it's too late.

Don't wait for the pressure, make those changes now.

How much water does your business use? Are there ways of capturing any of the carbon it produces? How is your product transported? How heavy is the bottle it comes in? Does it really need that giftbox and leaflet? What's the carbon footprint of your global cocktail competition? Do you really need to fly all those people to another part of the planet for a trip?

There are already businesses making great strides in this field. Earlier this month, I attended a talk at the Bar Convent Berlin trade show - cue existential angst about my flights - with representatives from Absolut, Chase and Portobello Road Gin. It was inspiring to hear how Absolut produces 96% less CO2 emissions than other distilleries across the planet. Around 80% of the brand's transportation is run on clean fuel, with the other 20% mainly comprising farmers' tractors that are still powered by fossil fuels. The vodka brand also claims to work hard to protect its water source.

Chase, meanwhile, is a field-to-glass distillery, which automatically reduces carbon emissions and recently spent GBP1m (US$1.3m) - a substantial sum for a family-owned business - on a biomass boiler.

These practices should be the rule rather than the exception.

If you do these things, or start doing so, then shout it from the rooftops - there are plenty of consumers itching for a good-news story and keen to engage with brands making positive changes.

And, if you've worked out ways of producing, distributing, marketing and selling your brands more efficiently, then please make the information open-source, so that others can adopt it too.

In order to keep to the target of a 1.5°C rise above pre-industrial levels, the IPCC warns we need to make "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society". It's a big task, but we all have to play our part.

So, what are you going to do about it?


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