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Blame it on Blue Planet II. Since the nature documentary series began airing in early 2018, the blight of ocean plastics has come into focus for those who have watched it. Sir David Attenborough has become the Jiminy Cricket for this generation—a story-teller, a sage advisor, and apparently, the universal conscience needed to spur people to action.
IndieWire reviewer Hanh Nguyen writes, “Just as the series dazzles viewers with natural wonders, it also points out how humans are the biggest threat to the very things we’re admiring. Each episode notes some sort of effect we’ve had—the overfishing, the rise in ocean temperature from the use of fossil fuels, the pollution—and the final episode focuses completely on the destruction we’ve wrought.” The message is getting through; the ‘Attenborough effect’ has led to a 53 percent drop in single use plastic in the past year.
What’s more, an Ipsos MORI survey of consumers who have seen Blue Planet II found that the series has motivated them to act:
And it’s not just consumers that are confronting sustainability.
Corporate social responsibility gains momentum
Companies are stepping into the fray too. It’s not just good for the planet; it’s good for business. A study of more than 3,800 consumers by GlobalWebIndex revealed that two out of three consumers believe brands that make public commitments to sustainability are more trustworthy.
Here are four examples of how companies are taking on ocean plastics as part of their CSR commitments.
American Express—Have you ever wondered how much plastic is in your wallet? American Express has, and the company is now the first to create a credit card from upcycled ocean plastic. When American Express made the announcement last year, Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch explained the partnership, saying, “Every second breath we take is created by the oceans. Without them, we can’t exist. American Express is creating a symbol of change and inviting their network to shape a blue future, one based on creativity, collaboration and eco-innovation.” American Express also has other sustainability-focused plans, including pursuit of zero-waste certification for its New York headquarters by 2025 and phasing out of single-use plastics in its airport lounges.
Adidas—The global sports apparel company announced last year that it plans to eliminate virgin plastic, including polyester, from its products by 2024. In addition, Adidas has vowed to do the same across its network of offices, stores, warehouses and distribution centers, which the company estimates will reduce virgin plastic use by 40 tons a year. This isn’t new territory for the company. In 2017, Adidas sold 1 million pairs of its Parley shoes, which are made with plastic waste that might otherwise end up in the ocean. The company anticipates that growing consumer interest in environmentally-friendly products will drive sales of its recycled plastic shoes to hit 5 million pairs this year.
SC Johnson—In February, SC Johnson divulged plans to start producing one of its top cleaning products¬—Windex with Vinegar¬—in bottles that are 100 percent recycled ocean plastic. The move is part of SC Johnson’s CSR commitment to make all of its plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. In concert with the announcement, SC Johnson chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson noted, “The Windex bottle is just one of the many ways we are not only providing solutions to combat ocean pollution but taking action to make these solutions a reality.” The company also revealed plans to make a 100 percent ‘Social Plastic’ Windex bottle, also made with ocean-bound plastics, with some proceeds earmarked to help people living below the poverty line in Haiti, the Philippines and Indonesia. Kelly Semrau, senior vice president for global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability at SC Johnson, said “We believe the more people are talking about this issue, the more government, businesses, NGOs and communities will work together to address it.”
Diageo—Eco-minded beer drinkers take heart. Diageo, the beverage maker responsible for Guinness beer, plans to package multipacks of its Irish stout with recyclable cardboard. It’s a smart move given that negative publicity that is associated with the plastic rings used to hold together beverage packs. Who hasn’t seen pictures of penguins or sea turtles being choked by the ubiquitous plastic rings? As consumers seek out eco-friendly alternatives, Diageo is positioning itself to deliver with a $20+ million commitment to sustainable packaging for all its alcohol brands.
Clearly, companies are answering the call to back up their corporate social responsibility statements with action. Sounds like reason to celebrate …Guinness anyone?
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