I spent over two decades in the world of advertising and marketing before I took the plunge in the world of sustainability. Often times, I think that this new life of mine is perhaps an atonement for all the sins I committed in my past life, when I used to develop advertising strategies and campaigns for multinational consumer product companies, who did not have a millimetre of sustainability in their DNA. The other issue that used to bother me was that we were encouraging people to consume more and more, and if they did not want to, we found ingenious ways to ensure they consumed more and more. Traces of this sentiment was reflected in my article in the beginning of this month, when I discussed the 'empty promises' made by the private sector in tackling climate change. Promises made and broken because no one was watching. I lamented the limitations of expecting the private sector to help in combating climate change. All in all, a dark sky with no stars to cheer me up.
While there are those in the private sector who are making empty promises, there are others also who are doing what it takes to combat the effects of climate change, by adopting sustainability principles, processes and practises. The sun does rise eventually, after a dark night, and it did - to lift my spirit, when I read about how some of the consumer product companies are trying to reframe their vision by addressing the dichotomy of promoting consumption growth and sustainability at the same time.
One such admirable example is Procter & Gamble (P&G), doing some great work with their concept of 'positive consumption'. The sheer potential of what a company like P&G can do comes into perspective, when we realise that they touch the lives of over 5 billion consumers every day. Besides the messaging potential, positive action from P&G will go a long way in influencing their consumers. This is what they are doing, when they came up with a bold idea that the more we consume, the more we disproportionately give back, the more we consume, the more positive impact we have on our planet and society. They called it 'positive consumption'. Positive consumption is about adding back real value, not simply minimizing the damage being done, leaving the planet and society actually better off than we found it. So what have they done?
They are doing their bit to help clean up the oceans of plastic, and are also generating renewable energy for some of the production plants. Plastic that ends up in the ocean threaten not just the lives of fish, but the entire ocean eco system. It is predicted that if nothing is done to clean up the oceans, there will more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050! So P&G partnered with 100 NGO's and 1,000 volunteers, including their own staff, to collect enough plastic from the beaches of France to produce 150,000 shampoo bottles, for their first limited edition that was sold in over the summer. Once these bottles are in circulation and people recycle them, they close the loop. They will not end up in the ocean, and in fact this is having a positive impact, because they are actually removing plastic from the beaches and oceans to incorporate into these bottles. They are doing the same with their Fairy bottle using 100% recycled plastic, 10% of which is sourced from beaches. To further expand their packaging impact, by the end of 2018, P&G says that more than a half a billion Hair Care bottles in Europe will include up to 25% recycled plastic.
P&G's Renewable Energy program has also kicked in with their Tyler Bluff wind farm in Texas, producing electricity to full capacity. P&G partnered with EDF Renewable Energy and Southern Company on a project that brought an additional 52 wind turbines and more than 125 megawatts of electricity to the grid. P&G purchases 80% of the project's output which is enough to power 100% of their Fabric and Home Care plants in the US and Canada.
This is trend setting and consoling for a sustainability advocate like me. this gives me so much hope. Now, imagine if all consumer product companies started closing their production loop by using only recycled plastic for their packaging. Imagine if all of them then invested in wind and soar farms for their electricity consumption. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be!