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Life In Plastic: It Really Isn’t Fantastic

A baby pilot whale dying of plastic poisoning, mourned by its helpless mother.

An albatross chick lay dead from ingesting a plastic toothpick.

Serene turtles surrounded by plastic bags which floated eerily like jellyfish… 

Our hearts collectively broke as a nation as we watched Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II last year.

 

 

We could no longer turn a blind eye to the environmental impact of our extensive use of plastic. And Google confirms this, with the number of people searching about plastic in our oceans doubling since the programme.

An announcement by the Government followed shortly after. Vowing to eliminate single-use plastic in the UK by 2042, Theresa May said, “in the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls”.

She confirmed several Government initiatives, including consultation with supermarkets to create plastics-free aisles and a £7bn research and development pot to be used to “inject new funding into plastics innovation”.

Whilst many critics have said this isn’t soon enough, there definitely needs to be a top-down pressure on businesses to be more transparent with their customers and to find cost-effective greener alternatives.

 

Many businesses are making ethical business a brand value…

At the end of November, Clive Schlee, CEO of Pret a Manger, took to Twitter to crowdsource ideas from customers. He asked how his company could encourage more people to bring reusable coffee cups. Clive says, “I was inundated with suggestions, ideas and feedback. All were constructive and the vast majority were supportive”.

 

“I was inundated with suggestions, ideas and feedback. All were constructive and the vast majority were supportive.”

 

As a result, Pret increased their reusable cup discount from 25p to 50p. They are set to launch a well-designed reusable cup in coming months and are exploring adding more china cups to shops with seats.

All of these are simple changes, which have the potential to make a big difference. It’s not just about the environment, businesses like yours can benefit in other ways too:

  • Strengthening your brand perception
  • Bring in more environmentally conscious customers
  • Safeguard against future anti-plastic regulations

Even if you don’t create products, there are a myriad of ways you can be socially and environmentally responsible.

 

Why not take inspiration from these businesses weaving ethical commitments into the fabric of their company:

 

Iceland the supermarket has pledged to eliminate plastic from its own-brand range.

 

Iceland the supermarket has pledged to eliminate plastic from its own-brand range, with an aim to complete the move by the end of 2023.

 

Earth.Food.Love in Totnes, Devon, is a zero waste shop

 

Earth.Food.Love in Totnes, Devon, is a zero waste shop founded by wife and husband, Nicola and Richard who live by the saying “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

 

Patagonia have made a ‘1% for the planet’ pledge

 

Patagonia clothing put 1% of their total annual sales ($89 million so far) into domestic and international grassroots environmental groups under their ‘1% for the planet’ pledge, which other businesses can join.

 

Lush cosmetics live and breath their company policies.

 

Lush cosmetics live and breath their company policies. From fighting animal cruelty and modern slavery to aiming for naked packing where possible, they’ve dozens of socially-conscious brand values.

 

Mooncup menstrual cup started their business with one aim: “to make your experience of periods more positive, healthy and eco-friendly”

 

Mooncup menstrual cup started their business with one aim: “to make your experience of periods more positive, healthy and eco-friendly”. The British company also gives each team member the chance to donate to a cause close to their heart.

It is, surely, our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.

Sir David Attenborough

So how can you still make money and be as socially and environmentally responsible as a small business or startup?

  1. Talk to your customers and employees
    Initiate the conversation before they put pressure on you. After all, they’re the ones who’ll vote with their feet if they don’t see your business supporting their ethics. You might not be able to do everything they suggest, but they could be a goldmine of ideas you hadn’t even considered.
  2. Research alternatives
    Ask your suppliers what alternatives they can offer to plastic, or reduce emissions. Put the pressure on them to find alternatives if none are available right now. And if you can, switch to more environmentally friendly resources.
  3. Monitor your competitor’s activity
    Look to your competitors for ideas and keep abreast of alternative solutions they’re putting into place. If they’re available to them, they could be available to you.

These steps should open up options, but is a plastic-free business even possible?

We’d love to hear how you feel about how you can make a difference through your business. Share your ideas on Twitter @informiUK using the hashtag #plasticfreebiz.

Finally, I’ll close this email with a message from Sir David Attenborough:

“It is, surely, our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.”

 

Jen Smith is our resident email blogger. Sign up to our fortnightly newsletter to get more updates like this.  

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