Four really interesting things from SB ‘18
The real home run is when you can turn the social benefit into a functional or emotional benefit as well. For instance, Kirti noted that Cold Water Tide, while using less electricity (which means a lower carbon impact with every load of laundry), ALSO actually goes easier on clothes, ensuring they last longer. So as the consumer, my clothes get clean, I get to keep them longer and I’ve lowered my impact on the planet. Functional + Societal + Emotional benefits.
The Advocacy piece was a new one for me and also a eureka moment. It makes perfect sense to me that if you lead in such a way that other companies will follow, it adds to your authenticity and gives even greater credibility and gravitas to your sustainability stand. A good example of this is REI. In a presentation from Alex Thompson, VP of Brand Stewardship and Impact, we learned that over 700 organizations have joined REI in their #optoutside movement. Talk about adding depth to an already incredible, brand-solidifying commitment.
Full disclosure: we’ve done a lot of work around plastics over the last couple of years on behalf of clients, so my ears were primed to pick up on the comments and interpret the attitudes on this. I’ve long advocated that we need to find a way to change the conversation from “plastic is bad” to “plastic waste is bad.” Truly, our cars don’t get lighter and more fuel efficient without plastics, we don’t tackle food waste without plastics, and we don’t get clean water to people who need it without plastics. But we MUST solve the marine debris problem.
Unfortunately, as the “plastics in the ocean” issue got talked about – and it got talked about a LOT – the comments and attitudes seem to perpetuate the notion that all plastics are bad. From a comment on the main stage that there would be a working session to address the question, “How do we eliminate plastics from our world,” to National Geographic’s presentation about their signature initiative, Planet or Plastic (emphasis mine), the pervasive thinking seems to be that Plastic = Bad.
As sustainability professionals, I think we need to watch our language here. Words matter. And as brands, retailers and governments continue down the plastic deselection path (which is already happening as a reaction to the marine debris problem), we need to be careful not to completely push the entire material to the sidelines and lose the sustainability benefits that plastics can bring in the right applications. Where else do we need to get crisper on our language?