Avoid appearing 'plastic' on sustainability

29th March 2018

P17 bottle

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  • Pollution & Waste Management


Christopher D H Wilson

Awareness of the issues associated with plastic waste is at an all-time high. Those improving sustainability and environmental performance will never have a better opportunity to present their case

For many in the UK, it was David Attenborough and the producers of the Blue Planet series who brought the issue of plastic waste into our lounges and firmly onto the mainstream media’s agenda. This, alongside the high level of campaigner activity on social media and traditional media, has resulted in public demands that we stem the tide of plastic waste.

The government and global brands are now trying to show they’re taking action. Adidas, for example, has a stated commitment to eliminate virgin plastic from its shoes and, through its work with Parley, has a goal of producing one million pairs of UltraBoost trainers, using ocean plastic, this year.

The UK government announced commitments to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. Under the pledge, waste such as carrier bags, food packaging and disposable plastic straws would be abolished. The move follows a broader previous 25-year plan, which will also encourage supermarkets to set up “plastic-free aisles” for goods with no packaging, and confirmed plans to extend the 5p charge for carrier bags to all English retailers.

This momentum has provided a great opportunity for some brands to gain some quick PR wins from positioning themselves at the forefront of change. Iceland, for example, was quick to announce a new range of products free from plastic packaging. But this wave of media attention also brings the opportunity for businesses to make deeper-rooted changes, which will aid them in developing more environmentally and commercially sustainable business models for the future.

For those people who are tasked with responsibility for sustainability and environmental performance, there will never be a better opportunity to present their case to a more sympathetic audience. Waste has arguably never been so high up the corporate agenda, and there is a broad recognition that businesses need to take action to firstly protect the brand and then to potentially enhance it. It’s amazing what a little ‘fear’ of alienating the customer can do. More proactive and forward-looking businesses will see this as an opportunity to realise some genuine commercial, social and environmental value.

At this point, however, there needs to be a note of caution. In the same way that we should be wary about letting the media dictate our environmental priorities, we must ensure that whatever action we take in this situation is strategic and designed to bring about credible and sustainable change. It is easy to be led into a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction, which, while servicing the need to be seen to be doing something, acts as little more than a sticking plaster.

Helistrat is passionate about working with our customers to re-engineer supply chains and ‘design out’ waste – including plastics. This enables our customers to become more resource efficient not only in their own processes but also to engage a supply chain that is aligned to their ambition. Wherever possible, we look to develop more circular models that feed valuable secondary resources directly back in to these suppliers as their raw materials of the future.

We have recently released a report on our Point of View on Plastics, which explores socio-cultural factors surrounding the material, the effects of regulation change and the recommendations for next steps to help mitigate risk and safeguard businesses in the future. Visit our website news pages to download a copy.

For more information, see www.helistrat.co.uk

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