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Many organizations use Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) standards or engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs to support sustainable business practices and mitigate third-party risk. But what about on the home-front? ‘Tis the season of celebration, but the glittery decorations and twinkling lights disguise a growing mountain of waste. Holiday treats and popular gifts bring the risk of forced labor or child labor in the extended supply chain. Let’s take a closer look.
Wrapped up in waste
Throughout the winter holiday season, Americans send greeting cards, exchange beautifully wrapped presents and indulge in festive buffets. While we don’t want to put a damper on the joy that comes from reveling family and friends, we don’t think better awareness into the sustainability of our celebrations is a bad thing. After all, during the rest of the year, we blog about risk awareness and the benefits of ESG and CSR for corporations. Why not consider those principles for us—as consumers—as well?
The statistics are stunning. According to research by the Peninsula Sanitary Service, inc (PSSI) and the Stanford Recycling Center, which are partnering with Stanford University toward a goal of zero waste, the holiday season is replete with waste. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day sees 25 percent more trash created than any other time of year—equating to one million extra tons of waste per week. How can we make a dent in the trash pile?
But let’s look a little deeper at the issue.
We all know people who are committed recyclers of wrapping paper and gift bags. Grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and learned the art of reduce/reuse/recycle long before it was trendy. Moms who gather up all the gift bags for use next year—often to the same people so no new tag is needed either. Siblings who painstakingly unwrap gifts and gloat because they still have gifts to unwrap after everyone else is done. (Or is that just my family?) But such practices can make a big difference. So can using reusable decorative tins or baskets, buying holiday cards and wrapping paper made with recycled content.
And what about the gifts underneath the wrapping paper? Like the Island of Misfit Toys in one holiday classic, landfills see more than their fair share of broken toys and faded fads—not to mention the leftover snacks that got into the bin after a holiday party. What’s more, a wide range of popular gifts come with the risk of forced labor or child labor in the supply chain—from the chocolate delights that you hand to a party host to the holiday-themed PJs many where throughout the season.
Gift-giving can be more environmentally and socially responsible. For example, give gifts that support year-round eco-consciousness like refillable water bottles, canvas shopping totes, or battery rechargers. Looks for solar-powered products or ones that have long life cycles and few power requirements like Legos. And, of course, homemade gifts are a great alternative. Not sure what to make? In the age of Pinterest, you have plenty of inspiration to choose from and even a Pinterest ‘fail’ will be good for a laugh during your holiday get-togethers.
And to keep forced labor out of your gift bag, look for brands that have strong commitments to CSR and ESG standards and fair-trade sources for unique gifts that come from sustainable supply chains. By supporting companies that are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, holiday consumers can provide even more incentive for organizations to embrace best practices for mitigating the risk of forced labor in supply chains and developing products and services that do good not only for customers, but for communities around the world.
Isn’t that the ‘good will’ that is at the heart of the holidays anyhow?