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The Future of Sustainability and Private Brand with Trevor Yong

Velocity Talks: A Conversation on Sustainability and the Future of Private Brands

Welcome to Velocity Talks, where Christopher Durham, the president of Velocity Institute, engages with industry leaders and discusses the latest trends and challenges in the private brand and retail sector. In this episode, he is joined by Trevor Yong from Aura, a packaging consultancy firm dedicated to driving sustainability and positive change in the industry. We delve into the importance of data collection in packaging, the impact of legislation on private brands, and the future of sustainability in the retail sector.

Embracing Sustainability and Data-Driven Solutions

Trevor Yong introduces Aura as a group of packaging consultants determined to change the planet. Their mission is to enable, support, educate, and provide insights to global organizations regarding their packaging. With clients like Walmart and Amazon, Aura focuses on sustainability and the collection of packaging data, which is becoming increasingly crucial in a data-driven world.

Yong highlights the challenges organizations face in collecting and utilizing accurate data for evaluating the recyclability and sustainability of their products. He explains that many companies are either not collecting enough data or are struggling to capture the necessary data points. This is where Aura’s software, Ehalo, comes into play. It streamlines the data collection and provides real-time insights and analysis to help organizations make informed decisions.

The Growing Complexity of Packaging Data

Yong emphasizes the magnitude of the data challenge in the packaging industry. He explains that each SKU can have around 25 to 30 data points, and with hundreds or even thousands of SKUs, the amount of data to be collected and analyzed becomes overwhelming. He states that organizations need to increase their data points by 200-300% to evaluate the sustainability of their packaging properly.

The conversation shifts to the role of private brands in this data-driven landscape. Yong points out that private brands face unique challenges in managing packaging sustainability with their numerous suppliers and vendors. He stresses the importance of data collection and analysis for private brands, especially with the growing packaging legislation and regulations.

The Impending Impact of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

One of the key topics discussed is the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Yong explains that EPR is a system where manufacturers and retailers are held responsible for the packaging waste generated by their products. He mentions that EPR is already being implemented in four US states in 2025, with California leading the way. This development will significantly impact private brands and their packaging practices.

Yong highlights the need for private brands to prepare for EPR and other upcoming regulations. He emphasizes capturing accurate data and setting meaningful, challenging goals to stay ahead of the curve. He encourages private brands to embrace sustainability now, as it presents an opportunity for differentiation and long-term success.

The Power of Data and Collaboration

The conversation turns to the power of data and its potential to drive positive change in the industry. Yong explains that Aura’s software, Ehalo, collects and analyzes data and provides actionable insights and recommendations. It helps retailers and brands identify areas for improvement, such as eliminating harmful chemicals like PFAS and improving recyclability.

Yong also highlights the importance of collaboration in the industry. He mentions the growing tribe of organizations that care about sustainability and work towards positive change. He believes that collaboration and knowledge-sharing will be crucial in the next five to ten years to address the challenges and opportunities in sustainability.

The Future of Sustainability and Private Brands

In the final segment of the conversation, Yong shares his vision for the future of sustainability and private brands. He believes that sustainability will become integral to commercial business practices, driven by consumer demand for sustainable solutions. He encourages private brands to take the initial pain of investing in sustainability now, as it will lead to long-term benefits and differentiation from competitors.

Yong also emphasizes the importance of right-sizing packaging and considering the total cost of goods throughout the product development process. He urges private brands to prioritize sustainability initially and not treat packaging as an afterthought.

Conclusion: A Call to Action for Private Brands

In conclusion, Trevor Yong’s insights shed light on the challenges and opportunities in the packaging industry. He emphasizes the importance of data collection, analysis, and collaboration to drive sustainability and positive change. Private brands are urged to embrace sustainability now, as upcoming regulations like EPR will require them to manage their packaging waste proactively.

The future of sustainability lies in organizations willing to invest in data-driven solutions and make meaningful changes to their packaging practices. By doing so, private brands can contribute to a more sustainable future and differentiate themselves in the market and meet the growing demand for sustainable products.

As we look ahead, it is clear that sustainability will be a defining factor in the success of private brands. The time to act is now, and organizations that take the lead in embracing sustainability will reap the rewards in the years to come.

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About the Author: Christopher Durham

Christopher Durham is the president of the Velocity Institute. Prior to this he founded the groundbreaking site My Private Brand. He is the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He began his retail career building brands at Food Lion and Lowe’s Home Improvement. Durham has worked with retailers around the world, including Albertsons, Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro Canada. Durham has published seven definitive books on private brands, including Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project and Vanguard: Vintage Originals.

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