Be inspired to make Black Friday work for you – a guide for sustainable businesses

As world leaders and protestors at COP26 fight for a solution to the climate emergency, businesses all over the western world are preparing for the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Meanwhile, ‘Single’s Day’ in Asia is a shopping bonanza of an even bigger scale!

While officially starting on 26th November, many brands have already started offering discounts. There really is a stark contrast between what is best for our planet and the impact that these global, consumerist events have.

There’s a reason why Black Friday is so controversial

The heavy discounts encourage panicked shopping and hyper-consumption. People buy things they don’t need for the sake of a bargain, leading to huge volumes of waste and perpetuating our culture of disposability. There’s no doubt that the frenzy of consumerism drives waste, emissions, and exploitation of resources and overseas workers.

But many small businesses need the income boost that Black Friday can give. And their customers shouldn’t feel bad for availing of price reductions, especially as the cost of living here in the UK has increased significantly since this time last year. 

So how can businesses with a sustainable ethos benefit from the pre-holiday sales in a way that is aligned with their values? Here are some ideas for ways to make it work for your business.

Get your messaging right

Despite the mass shopping that we witness in the media, there are a growing number of people who are rejecting the shopping crazes caused by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, research by PwC put the percentage of the UK population interested in Black Friday at just 38%.

While no doubt appreciating discounts on products that they genuinely need and want, eco-conscious customers support businesses that are doing things more sustainably and want to give their money to brands that share their values.

With legitimate eco-anxiety growing rapidly, make sure to let your audience know where you stand!

If you’re offering discounts, make sure that you let people know about your ethical values and any sustainability initiatives that you implement in your business. This could be about your supply chain, charity initiatives or the way you do business. 

Use this time to educate your customers about your industry too, by getting vocal on your email lists, website and social media!

Reduce your plastic packaging

A report by the thinktank Green Alliance found that up to 80% of items bought over Black Friday weekend, as well as plastic packaging, will end up in landfill, incineration or low-quality recycling after a very short life.

If you sell a product, you should make every effort to reduce the amount of plastic packaging that you use. Plastic is made of fossil fuels, so reducing how much we use will contribute to ensuring that global temperatures don’t rise beyond 1.5ºC. To coincide with COP26, some companies are creating innovative packaging that eliminates the need for plastic at all – including sticky tape. You can find lots of inspiration here.

plastic waste

Donate some of your profits instead of offering discounts

A different approach is to donate some of your profits to charity over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday week. Rather than lowering their prices, east London skincare brand Montamonta has donated 10% of all online revenue between 26 November and 1 December to food charity The Felix Project

In the past years, the conscious brand even donated 100% of its Black Friday sales to environmental causes.

While this may not be possible for every business, it’s worth exploring how you can give something back during this time of excess!

Raise your prices

It might seem crazy, but this is exactly what eco-friendly footwear label Allbirds did last year. They raised the price of all their items by £1 on Black Friday, a customer donation the brand matched and gave directly to the Fridays For Future climate movement founded by Greta Thunberg. 

Be honest

Businesses operating a sustainable model may not be able to offer big discounts that compete with the major players. Be transparent about your production costs and pricing. Showing that you treat your employees fairly while also offering the best price to your customers is a great way to demonstrate that your brand is trustworthy!

Abandon Black Friday 

Some retailers, such as Marks and Spencer and Raeburn, abandon Black Friday completely and promote a #BuyNothingDay hashtag as an alternative.

Likewise, some more sustainable brands are the ‘Giving Tuesday’ movement that started in 2012. This holiday takes place on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and encourages people to donate to organisations that support humanitarian and environmental causes.

Whatever you do this Black Friday, whether you avail of boosted sales or use this time to educate your audience about your brand and its values, don’t be afraid to do things differently and put your own stamp on it!

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