From Eco-Conscious to Actionable: How Brands are Embracing QR Codes for Sustainability

By Katherine Ryan, Vice President Brand Marketing, Bitly

Today’s consumers aren’t just casual shoppers—they’re eco-conscious, committed to taking strides toward responsible consumption, and are the most informed advocates of sustainability we’ve seen in decades. In fact, The Economist notes a significant surge in searches for sustainable products, up by 71% since 2016, signaling what they call an “eco awakening.” McKinsey & Company’s study further reveals that over 60% of respondents are willing to pay extra for products with sustainable packaging.

This heightened focus on eco-consciousness isn’t confined to specific industries, either. It spans sectors from pharmaceuticals and the food and beverage industry to retail and consumer packaged goods. Brands realize that meeting customer expectations now means more than just delivering quality products; it requires aligning with consumer values, too. Many consumers seek companies committed to safeguarding the planet’s future, and brands in turn are recognizing that embracing sustainability is a powerful way to connect deeply with their audiences.

Take Target, for instance. The company has made significant strides in environmentally friendly packaging, largely driven by customer expectations. Similarly, Walmart and Kroger are exploring sustainable options like reusable packaging and private label packaging to improve recycling practices in the coming years.

Recent Earth Day celebrations around the globe serve as a helpful reminder that all companies should invest in developing a sustainable practice strategy over the coming years as consumer demand is only expected to grow. After all, it’s not just about offering eco-friendly products; it’s also about strengthening brand-consumer relationships and integrating sustainability into every aspect of business operations. As brands strive to align with eco-conscious consumer values, technological innovations have emerged as powerful tools for achieving these goals.

Many technologies—like QR Codes—are already being implemented throughout the retail and consumer packaged goods industries to help educate, empower, and foster deeper consumer connections all with the scan of a code. Brands are adding QR Codes to hang tags, product packaging, and more to revolutionize how consumers connect with brands while also reducing the amount of print materials needed to convey important information, discounts, and content.

Brands can strengthen consumer connections through QR Codes while also walking the walk when it comes to sustainability. Here are a few ways to get started:

Consumer Engagement and Education:

QR Codes serve as a direct link between brands and consumers, providing transparent
information on product origins, sustainability features, and recycling guidelines. For example, scanning a QR Code on product packaging can lead consumers to website content that shares the brand’s sustainability efforts, product sourcing, recycling tips, and more. This engagement fosters a deeper connection between consumers and brands aligned with their eco-conscious values.

Beyond Supply Chain Optimization:

QR Codes revolutionize supply chain management, offering brands a channel for comprehensive product visibility from production to delivery. By scanning a QR Code, brands gain invaluable insights into a product’s journey, including its lifespan, delivery schedule, and environmental impact. This enhanced traceability not only ensures accountability for shipped products but also facilitates informed decision-making at every stage of the supply chain.

Creating a Sustainable Future:

QR Codes play a crucial role in driving meaningful change towards a greener future. By integrating QR Codes into recycling initiatives, brands can enhance sustainability efforts. For instance, QR Codes on product packaging can guide consumers to recycling guidelines, local centers, or initiatives promoting reusable packaging. Offering incentives or rewards for recycling through QR Codes encourages consumer participation in eco-friendly practices, fostering a collaborative effort between brands and consumers.

Technology, including QR Codes, empowers brands to engage directly with consumers, offering insights into sustainability and product information. By embracing QR Codes and other tech-driven strategies, brands can deepen their commitment to sustainability while working towards a more eco-conscious future.