As brand designers and strategists, we look at a business as a whole, 360º inspection, to understand what they are about. We often find companies that claim to be sustainable or ethical, and when we look at this claim, it’s usually lacking something. Don’t get me wrong, and most time is ignorance.
Today I wanted to look at the claim: “We recycle everything”, “Buy one, and we plant one tree”, or pay carbon offset. These three claims come with big debates. Are these good practices or marketing hooks?
Recycling is not as magic as they make us think. Over half of the household plastic packaging, the government claims to be recycled, is sent abroad to countries where they end up burning it, despite the claims that it gets recycled.
Plastics have been found in remote places like Antarctica, so it is a big problem that needs drastic solutions. Businesses are responsible for stopping single-use plastics because it takes 450 years to decompose. It doesn’t make sense.
Potentiate the 4 R’s – Reduce consumption, Reuse as much as possible, Repair instead of throwing away, and the last resource consider recycling knowing is nearly as bad as landfills.
Planting one tree is not the solution if you still produce more carbon footprint. The problem of planting trees is the danger that we think that we are doing something right, that we might still over-consume because with the thing we are doing a good deed. And, hey, it is not a bad thing to plant trees. It could be a great thing, but we have to be aware that you might not be saving the planet because your consumption produces more carbon than offsets. Again we have to think before buying that product: Do I really need this? Will it last enough time to make a difference?
I am afraid to open this Pandora Box. Carbon offsetting is like going to the confessionary after you committed a crime. The damage is done. It is one of the biggest lies and greenwashing techniques many businesses use.
We need to change our mindset. We need to reduce the emissions, not offset them. We need to consider if a business trip is worth the carbon. We need policies that make train journeys affordable in price and time train journeys that cost four times more than a flight.
These are conversations that we need to have as business CEOs or owners, and conversations that we need to have before starting a marketing or brand strategy exercise. We need to understand what is our business doing and are these solutions or shallow claims?