How QR codes help brands meet consumer expectations for sustainability

By Bitly

Katherine Ryan, vice president, brand marketing, Bitly

From trending resale programs at top brands like Lululemon and REI that make sustainable shopping more accessible to scrutiny over Taylor Swift’s private jet carbon dioxide emissions, demand for sustainable shopping experiences and transparency is at an all-time high.

Consumers have more access to information than ever, and their environmental consciousness is increasing alongside it. This duo of forces challenges CPG and retail brands to make sustainability information more accessible while implementing business practices that back up their claims. 

To address this need, brands are leveraging technologies such as QR codes to communicate their sustainability efforts and demonstrate their commitment to improving eco-friendly behavior. They are decreasing the print materials they produce and empowering the sustainable disposal of the products they sell. 

QR codes are changing the way CPG and retail brands connect with consumers. One of the most significant areas of improvement is transparency across production and distribution. Transparency fosters trust and accountability, allowing consumers to make more informed product choices.

As consumers seek brand transparency, QR codes offer accessible information

Through QR codes, consumers have unparalleled access to insights about a brand’s sustainability efforts, from sourcing to distribution. This transparency fosters trust and accountability across the CPG and retail sectors.

According to a recent survey by Specright, 71% of consumers are more inclined to trust a company’s sustainability claims when printed directly on the product or packaging. This transparency empowers consumers to make well-informed decisions aligned with their values, benefitting brands and consumers equally. 

Consumers can scan QR codes on packaging or in-store displays to uncover the origins of ingredients, delve into the manufacturing process and gauge the carbon footprint associated with transportation and distribution. 

Furthermore, with the CPG industry’s growing use of 2D Barcodes, a type of QR code, on product packaging, consumers will expect continued use of this type of information in the years to come. Brands that tap into this direct line of communication with consumers now will have an early competitive advantage before adoption becomes widespread.

QR codes minimize environmental impacts without taking away consumer conveniences

Integrating QR codes into packaging and in-store displays minimizes the environmental impact of printing additional materials while enhancing the consumer experience. With a simple scan, consumers access multimedia content — including videos, infographics and interactive guides — fostering a more immersive and engaging understanding of a brand’s sustainability impact.

For example, farm-frozen food brand Daily Harvest recently used QR codes on freezer door clings in Kroger stores across the U.S. to give shoppers a seamless way to learn more about the brand and its sustainability efforts. For every QR code scan, the brand donated $5 to support regenerative farms, leaving a positive impression on shoppers while showcasing its commitment to sustainable agriculture. 
This shift towards sharing information digitally through QR codes both in-store and on products directly does more than reduce a brand’s environmental impact. It also meets the preferences of tech-savvy shoppers who value convenience above all else. A study by PwC found that nearly 80% of American consumers point to speed and convenience as the most critical elements of a positive customer experience — and QR codes meet that need.

How QR codes unlock opportunities for brands to educate consumers on sustainability

Brands are harnessing QR codes’ potential to educate consumers on recycling practices and incentivize eco-friendly behaviors after purchase. By scanning a QR Code on a product, consumers gain access to information on proper disposal methods, nearby recycling facilities, and local initiatives for waste reduction. 

Some brands are taking it further by offering rewards or discounts for recycling or returning packaging, encouraging active participation in the sustainability journey. 

Take Scrub Daddy, for instance. Each package features a QR code with information about how to send sponges back to the brand rather than throwing them away. Through its Recycling Rewards Program, customers earn money toward Scrub Daddy products and merchandise for every sponge they recycle.

This direct engagement with consumers cultivates brand loyalty and incentivizes purchases while underscoring a genuine commitment to environmental stewardship. By empowering consumers to make environmentally conscious choices, brands foster a sense of collective responsibility for the planet’s well-being. 

As consumers increasingly prioritize sustainability in their purchasing decisions, QR codes are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of sustainable practices in the CPG and retail industries. Brands that leverage the power of QR codes are making lasting, direct connections with consumers. 

Sponsored by Bitly