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. Similarly, if you're against animal testing, child exploitation or tax-avoidance. Customers and clients are now more conscious about where their money is going and are more aware of what goes on behind the scenes of big companies.
We already 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. Therefore, 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.
It's unrealistic to assume, however, that it will always be their policy. Despite refusing to ban the excessive use of plastic in its products, Coca Cola has since said it's now looking into more sustainable options. In business you have to give the consumer what they want or they'll go elsewhere and in many ways, gyms are no different.
What Does Sustainability Mean for Gyms?
It's not just sustainable products that people want. They're after eco-friendly 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 but as much on having an experience and of feeling part of a community. Brands have always recognised the importance of community building but with the movement towards self-care, mindfulness, sustainability, hygge, veganism, etc, there’s an obvious need for a deeper connection and meaning to the things we do day-to-day.
That's not to say that gym owners should throw out their MMA cages, kick out their cross-fitters and open a yoga studio, but there are some lessons to be drawn from more environmentally minded companies, especially given that there will also be an intersection between fitness, health and 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. Also, 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.
It shows that health and fitness and sustainability aren't mutually exclusive, making it easier for gyms to integrate the latter into a company mission, value statement or ethos.
Why Gyms need to Become More Sustainable
- It provides a USP for your marketing campaign for a start. It's something that you can build on to attract new and retain old members.
- Sustainability is closely linked to efficiency, and when a business becomes more efficient it often saves time or money (sometimes both). This can be small changes that add up over time for example, installing energy-efficient lighting or a smart-water system. It could also be using electricity-generating indoor bikes to create clean power. This latter example is important because it also provides a faster ROI on your equipment, especially given that traditional stationary bikes don't create electricity nor contribute to energy bills.
- 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. Workplace wellbeing (including values) can also help reduce presenteeism so gyms shouldn't shy aware from creating a community amongst employees as well as members, and sustainability is a great way of doing that.
- The UK Government has committed to cut the country’s carbon emissions to ‘almost zero’ by 2050. This target is going to affect almost all 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, but there's no reason why you can't do this whilst also attracting new eco-aware clients and members and saving money.
Energym is a fitness tech company based in Birmingham, UK. We design and develop gym equipment that capture human power and converts it into clean useable electricity. Find out more about how we can reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint with our electricity-generating indoor bikes. Alternatively, drop us a message. We'd love to hear from you.