How is your organisation playing its part?
Sustainability – a global topic of discussion. In a world where phrases like ‘global warming’ are thrown around as commonly as ‘fancy a cuppa?’, it should come as no surprise that the sustainability movement is more prevalent than ever.
The war on plastic – the latest in the ‘war on’ trend, has many pubs and bars removing plastic straws from their venues and giant supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths remove single-use plastic bags from their checkouts. In Australia alone, we use 9 billion of single use plastic bags a year. That’s 10 million every single day with only 25 million people! Until 2018, Australia had been sending its recyclable waste to china and since China have refused to further accept this waste, it has sent the waste management industry into a tailspin and placing further pressure on governments to act.
There has been a rise in sustainable initiatives over the years, be it from reducing the use of plastic in various capacities i.e. hotels and pubs and supermarkets removing single use plastic bags, reusable cups schemes or the implementation of recycling deposit vending machines, organisations are raising overall awareness of ways to operate more sustainably. These initiatives also provide an excellent opportunity for policy-makers, organisations including local businesses, non-government organisations and community groups to showcase and implement new sustainable ideas, products and services.
Reusable cup scheme
Providing a simple solution to the war on plastic – many cafes now provide a discount on beverages when customers use their own reusable cups. Contrary to popular belief, coffee cups are not recycled due to the inside lining having a plastic film making them notoriously difficult to recycle. Now with many size and colour options, BYO cups are the latest eco trend.
Playing their part with promoting sustainability, the Australian government has implemented a deposit return scheme to collect plastic bottles and cans through reverse vending machines. With more than 5,500 across Australia, these vending machines provide the ultimate solution for optimal resource productivity, believing a healthy environment comes from the smart use of materials around us.
In the past, policies have focused on existing problems within the landfill and recycling industries, however the root of the problem tends to be overlooked: the generation of waste. Implementing effective policies could reduce excessive packaging by encouraging organisations to rethink their product management process and delivery.
Without evidence, policy-makers fall back on intuition, ideology or, at best, theory alone – and many policy decisions have been made in those ways. Given the complexities and interdependencies in our society and economy, and the unpredictability of people’s reactions to change, the resulting policies can go seriously astray. Strong and consistent leadership from policy-makers is required in order to achieve a low-waste and sustainable society.
Can the beauty and fashion industry become more sustainable?
Sustainability has come to the forefront within the beauty industry – green is now the new black. Whether sustainability has always been part of the corporate DNA or not, corporations are falling over themselves to demonstrate to customers they are not only ecologically conscious, but also increasingly ethical. Beauty companies have historically received much criticism for unethical and non-environmentally friendly business practices that include animal testing, unsustainable sourcing and chemical pollution.
Corporate social responsibility & sustainability initiatives vary greatly in the beauty industry. Several beauty companies, especially large multinationals, take a holistic approach to sustainability which enables them to tackle various issues simultaneously. Such companies are lowering the environmental impact of their cosmetic products by using greener formulations, reducing packaging and also cutting greenhouse gas emissions, waste, energy & water consumption; they are also looking at social dimensions, such as ethical supply chains and corporate philanthropy.
To outsiders, fashion is not known for championing political, environmental or social causes. However, as one of the world’s most powerful industries – and a platform with the power to influence how consumers think and act – the fashion industry has the opportunity to create real and sustainable change.
Second to oil, fashion and textiles is the most polluting industry in the world with every stage in a garment’s life threatening the environment. It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans. Up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes, including a range of dyeing and finishing processes. For clothing items that don’t sell or go out of style they will more often than not be discarded in giant landfills.
As there is more awareness around sustainability and initiatives, businesses can lead this environmental and social change with their ability and willingness to experiment those initiatives and act quickly to deploy them. CEOs and executive teams are increasingly asking for help on how they can make a tangible difference – moving beyond ‘why should we’ to ‘what can we do’ to benefit customers, employees, investors and the environment. This is where PR agencies have also stepped in, providing assistance with making businesses better through identifying what needs to be done, then creating sustainable strategies and programs to have an impact and deliver results.