The truth is, whenever I think of why companies should switch to more environmentally friendly and sustainable measures, I get angry. There are plenty of reasons why they should; I am sure that most companies have heard them by now. You can be sure that consumers have too, and that they are paying attention. Environmentalists have spent decades debating, pleading, and begging the changes necessary to live in a sound, sustainable planet. Now, consumers are demanding these changes, and the changes are coming too slowly.

We all know the reasons. We really do. I can list them down in my sleep. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s narrow them down to ethics and good business.

Humans, and their organizations, have a general ethical responsibility to our fellow human being: to not use up the commons and resources on which we all depend. Plastics are mostly made from natural gas, oil, and coal, so these limited and very useful resources are being used up like water going down a drain. We have a responsibility to use our resources efficiently and appropriately; where we should be reserving plastics for crucial medicinal procedures that cannot be replaced without endangering human life, we use plastics for our toys. This entails not poisoning each other, but with microplastics spreading through the food chain and into our bodies we are endangering ourselves. We’ve barely touched upon the ethical considerations to our fellow human being, and have yet to even address our ethical considerations to other life in earth! What about the responsibility to be respectful and considerate, humane? What do you do with the millions of wildlife plastic-related deaths, such as sea birds and sea-mammals? What do you do when people have found sea-gull stomachs full of plastic, when sea turtles die by eating a plastic bag it thought was a jellyfish?

Let’s now look at this with a cool head, with a business mindset. Consumers increasingly care about these problems, and savvy businesses are responding: look at the increasing presence of companies like EcoEnclose, who specialize in eco-friendly shipping supplies. The business case is clear: an ever-increasing number of consumers are seeking eco-friendly alternatives, and the future lies in them. As this influence grows, and younger generations add their purchasing power in the search for sustainability, switching to eco-friendly alternatives brings obvious benefits. For example, about 78% of companies that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) declare that the most important benefit they receive from the certification is meeting the demand of their clients, while 22% claim FSC certification as a competitive advantage. The companies that stay with plastic lose customer trust and loyalty. It’s a wave that’s going to go through the market anyways, steadily, constantly, and conclusively. Changing now, rather than later, means that not only will they be changing for the betterment of humanity, but that they will be opening ground and making a name for themselves, gaining an edge over later adopters. It is not just what will help these companies – it is what is necessary to survive. With the increasing generational turnover, more and more incentives, fines, and bans will be set in place for runaway plastic use. Already many people and retailers are turning away from packaging – places like Whole Foods don’t sell nuts and rice in plastic bags but allow customers to bring their own container. If packaging companies don’t adapt, they will be phased out.

So, here is my challenge to the companies that do not wish to or have yet to change to eco-friendly alternatives, even when the technology exists: I am appealing to their base emotions, the desire to survive, the desire to be remembered. Because money will not carry over into death, and all that will be left of them will be their legacy. Do they want their company to fail, or to survive? Do they want to be remembered by millennials and the younger generations the way the narrative of the environmentally destructive boomer is slowly becoming enshrined in our consciousness? How do people want the history books to write about them? How does one want their descendants to think about them?

To those ignoring this call: think about it. In the end, the stories they tell about you will be how your memory stays alive. So, what do you want that story to be?

Yes, I thought so. You want to be seen as the good guy. So be the good guy.

Essay by: Camila Delgado-Montes
Arizona State University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stand Up Pouches & Bags