Sustainability is a powerful marketing and buying tool.
Customers still want quality, affordable products and services but they also want to know that the brands and services they’re engaging with align with their values.
For example, if you’re against the use of palm oil then it’s likely you’ll avoid companies that use palm oil in their products.
We know that Millennials are happy spending more money for socially responsible products and services but how can we apply that to the fitness industry and if consumers want sustainability what could it mean for your gym?
What is Sustainability?
One of the best descriptions of sustainability was coined in the Brundtland Report in 1987 as something that satisfies the needs of the present without adversely affecting the conditions for future generations.
For example, Coca Cola was criticised in January 2020 for saying that it would not stop using single-use plastic bottles. Plastic bottles take around 450 years to decompose, leak toxic chemicals in the environment and are a threat to marine life.
Coca Cola cannot be considered a sustainable company because what it is doing right now will have a devastating impact on the environment for many years to come.
Although, it’s not unrealistic to assume that it will have to change that policy. Before COVID-19, single-use plastic was the big enemy and undoubtedly will be again. Despite what Coca Cola is saying now, it’s likely its already looking into more sustainable options because in business you have to give the consumer the product they want or they’ll go elsewhere.
Gyms are no different.
What Does Sustainability Mean for Gyms?
People don’t just want sustainable products. They want eco-friendlier services, too. In recent years, there’s been a change in focus when it comes to why people exercise. People aren’t only fixated on getting that result as they are on having an experience and of feeling part of a community. Add into this the move towards self-care, mindfulness, hygge, and veganism, etc, and there’s an obvious need for connection and meaning in the things we do day-to-day. Sustainability plays right into this because it’s about more than just what you’re doing; it’s about reducing the impact of right now on the future.
It’s not to say that you should throw out your MMA cage and start building a hot yoga studio, but you can draw some lessons from more environmentally enlightened ways of thinking.
And there’ll always be an intersection between fitness, health, and the environment.
For example, processed food contributes to climate change; it also contributes to obesity, chronic health conditions and early death in adults. All things that the NHS say can be massively reduced by regular exercise. We know that obese people tend to have bigger carbon footprints, too.
Food is fuel for anyone taking the gym seriously, but food waste is a huge environmental issue. It’s one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Poor air quality caused by pollution in urban areas causes illness and an increased risk of death. If you’re going to the gym to be healthier but then stepping out into toxic air pollution, then what’s the point? We also know that a gym can have poor air quality because of cacogenic equipment and industrial cleaning supplies.
Why Gyms need to Become More Sustainable
- It’s good PR for a start
- Reducing your carbon footprint can also save you money by reducing your business costs. For example, you can retrofit your current gym equipment with a device that turns human-generated power into usable electric to power your building. You’d save money on your energy bills and drastically reduce your carbon emissions.
You might also find that by making some small changes such as installing energy-efficient lights, installing a smart-water system or selling sustainable products like reusable water bottles and merchandise, you’ll have more money to invest back into the gym.
- It’ll help attract new customers as your gym will stand out from the competition. Word-of-mouth from advocates of environmentalism can be invaluable in encouraging other people they know to try your services.
- It’ll attract like-minded staff. In a recent survey, 40% of Millennials in the US said they’d chosen to take a pay-cut to work for an environmentally responsible company. Employees are often happier when they feel as if they’re working for a business that makes a positive contribution to society.
- It creates a deeper sense of community amongst members.
- The UK Government has committed to cut the country’s carbon emissions to ‘almost zero’ by 2050. This target is going to affect businesses at some point, so it’s far better to start thinking about sustainability now rather than later.
- It can be hard to imagine the consequences of climate change when so much of it seems to happen overseas (bush fires, deforestation, sea pollution, etc) but your business can be affected by events many miles from your location. Coronavirus has shown how vulnerable the UK is to global emergencies. Adapting your business to an eco-friendly approach isn’t just about aligning with a mission statement or looking good for PR, it’s also about taking responsibility for the part you play in creating environmental damage and reduce the risk of it becoming the next global crisis.