Almost three quarters of UK adults say it is important that we learn from the Covid-19 pandemic to be kinder as a society. As we reflect on lessons learnt over the last two years there is a clear message coming from the ashes: perhaps we could be a little kinder to ourselves, to each other and to our planet?

Health, wellness and even sustainability are not new phrases to us. In fact, they were considered important growing ‘trends’ well before Covid became an unfortunate household name. Perhaps one of the first hot topics of 2020 to temporarily disappear when the pandemic struck was ‘sustainability’. All talk of single use plastics and buying ethical brands went out the window as consumers and retailers went into survival mode. Just to start with, drinking and eating more at home meant more packaging; indeed sales of bottles and cans of beer and lager from supermarkets soared- not to mention the initial rush to move into takeaway and home delivery and all the plastic that comes with that.

But as the dust settles, we’re seeing the 2020 trend re-appear on our 2022 landscape. ‘Sustainability’ is back and this time it’s serious- Brits say the environment is now the third most important issue for the UK, after health and the economy.*

Kindness plays a role in where we are spending our money

Having endured the turmoil of the last two years, consumers want to be kinder to their planet and themselves (their bodies AND their minds.) And it may sound a little (LOT) cheesy, but many consumers want to spend their money with companies that care.

Consider all the factors at play when deciding on what to buy- in hospitality and the wider retail landscape- price, taste, quality, availability, value for money, health, pack size, allergies etc. Yet, for around 1-in-3 Brits, a company’s impact on the environment and their ethical stance are all major factors that are influencing their decisions.

“70% of consumers say they buy products with eco-friendly packaging even if they are slightly more expensive.”

Growing awareness of how businesses treat their employees

Being kind isn’t just about being good to the environment it’s also about being ethical, inclusive, and fair towards humans too, that might be in a team meeting or at the distant end of your supply chain. We are already seeing businesses that have been active in their communities in the pandemic reaping the rewards- whether they’d planned that to be the outcome or not! And others suffering when exposed for less than ethical behaviour.

Everything a company does from how it treats its staff to how it disposes of its waste and how it interacts with the local communities in which it operates – is all, somehow or another, in the public domain. It’s by these actions that many consumers measure a company, not by what it says in its marketing or its social media.

How you treat your staff, your political stance, what you stand for, what your directors say in public – all this and more has a profound impact on what your customers think of your business now and ultimately the extent to which they will engage with it.

Businesses will benefit from future-proofing with kindness

On one level kindness can simply be phoning a regular who hasn’t visited in a while or thanking a colleague for something they’ve done but it surely needs to be a bigger part of our company policies and strategy and culture.

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-imagine a kinder hospitality industry. One that puts the mental and physical health of its customers, teams, communities and our planet front and central.”

The difficulty and pain that the hospitality and retail industry has recently experienced should be an opportunity to question and reaffirm core values and beliefs. If a building is toppled by an earthquake, we probably wouldn’t reconstruct exactly what was there before, we build back better. A commitment to be kind can bring many important benefits to ourselves as individuals and to our businesses. I believe it can play an essential role in reducing the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis which are likely to last for years to come.

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*YouGov Monthly Tracker Dec 2021