How Augmented Reality is leading the Sustainability charge



Retailers are incorporating eco-friendly processes due to consumer demand for increased sustainability. New technology such as Augmented Reality has proven benefits and applications for encouraging sustainability amid an evolution of consumerism.

Consumerism has evolved to the point where businesses (especially manufacturers and retailers) can no longer operate with the sole intention of providing an end product or the needs of an individual.

Driven by the demands and expectations of Generation-Z, consumerism now entails meeting the social needs of the community and the environmental needs of the planet, as well as the consumer's.

Brands have been forced to accelerate sustainable practices and digital marketing solutions to meet the modern standard of consumerism. Ranging from ethical sourcing and fair employment to reducing waste and maximising recycling, brands across multiple industries are making substantial improvements to become eco-friendly.

Augmented Reality is developing an increasingly significant role in this modern evolution. Companies are utilising AR tech to connect, educate, and engage with their consumers, and not just to generate more sales, despite being a very effective tool to do so.

71.9% of all US manufacturers have a sustainability plan in place, and 8.3% are developing one.

Survey, 2021, National Association of Manufacturing (NAM)

Examples of why brands are using Augmented Reality

There are many new technological breakthroughs that can help drive sustainability and Augmented Reality is one of them. The following benefits of using AR processes for manufacturers and businesses can ultimately help reduce their carbon footprint and compete against less eco-friendly competitors.

  • Meet consumer demand for sustainable processes

  • Practice responsible consumption and production (+ lower costs)

  • Reducing waste in early product design and redesign stages with a visualised workflow for easier troubleshooting

  • Promote and educate recycling practices

  • Support and augment brand transparency

Consumer Demand for Sustainable Practices

There's a growing demand for brands to implement and uphold sustainable practices in the making, distributing, and selling of products. There is nowhere to hide for companies that fail to adhere to the demands of the modern consumers (especially Gen-Z) whose values are more tailored to sustainability.

They are willing to part with more money to support strong eco-friendly, sustainable-minded brands, and vocally challenge those who don't recognise their values.

81% of respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.

Survey 2017, The Global Consumer Confidence x Nielsen Q2

Augmented Reality helps companies not only meet that demand and actively support consumer values, but also empowers the voices calling for positive eco-change.

Augmented Reality & Connected Packaging

Brands worldwide are searching for effective methods reduce packaging and material waste, and to encourage consumers to recycle and reuse to ensure a healthy environmental balance.

Arguably, the standout AR solution with a significant impact on achieving a sustainable environment is 'connected packaging'.

Connected packaging uses package design to engage consumers with tailored digital content experiences. Digital experiences can be activated with engaging triggers like a QR code or by scanning the products itself (QR codes are also useful tool for collecting analytics).

56% of so-called Gen Z consumers are less likely to buy from a retailer again if their eCommerce packaging isn’t sustainable or resourceful.

Research, Duo

An immersive AR experience on the packaging can help drive user engagement, who can follow the product’s lifecycle, from the manufacturing process to the shop floor, in turn, displaying first-hand exactly what their brand initiatives are towards a greener planet.

One business in particular that has gone completely bananas with AR is Chiquita. Their interactive experience invites consumers to scan codes from the stickers placed on the products to journey into an immersive video that shows the entire sustainable product development process from its efficient plantation process to their proudly eco-friendly supply chain.

Typically, connected packaging navigates to a website, social media profile, or campaign/landing pages. With Augmented Reality, the digital content is interactive and engaging with unlimited potential for businesses and their marketing or brand teams to think outside the box.

Augmented Reality & Manufacturing Processes

The manufacturing industry hasn't entirely reaped the benefits of new technology. The manufacturing industry has harnessed the power of automation which has contributed to significant improvements in manufacturing processes.

However, manufacturers can utilise AR to increase production efficiency by decreasing the rate of errors and duplications.

As brands react and adapt to new eCommerce trends, it's inevitable that the sustainable design of packaging will remain an important factor in engaging consumers.

AR has massively improved manufacturing processes, making training far easier, improved operation performance, and streamlined production lines.

Augmented Reality reduces wastage in early design stages

Augmented Reality can be used to plan product and packaging designs. Brands can utilise AR to visualise products in high-quality, high-fidelity 3D, removing the need to physically print or produce packaging examples within the early design concept stages.

AR/VR technologies can be used by geographically dispersed teams to lessen the need for travel and reduce their carbon footprint. In the design and manufacturing sector, the advent of real-time photorealistic rendering capabilities in conjunction with AR/VR technologies can help reduce the number of physical prototypes required in the visual design process, thereby reducing material waste.

Project Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Nihanth Cherukuru

In Conclusion

Augmented Reality is an incredibly engaging technology that can support, promote and educate sustainable practices. It can evolve product packaging to connected packaging that can be reconfigured without redesigning or reprinting.

It can also educate consumers, improve brand transparency and increase loyalty, and promote the principal values that are paramount to a businesses' sustainable endeavours.

Companies that want to embrace sustainability should invest in the right augmented reality technology. It has huge potential to be more engaging, informative and sustainable than your typically standard approaches.