It’s urgent to reshape our economy towards justice and sustainability

June 15, 2020 by  
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It’s urgent to reshape our economy towards justice and sustainability Diane Osgood Mon, 06/15/2020 – 00:30 Right now, talking about shopping can seem trite. Yet, to address systemic racism, we need a more just economy. An economy slanted towards white ownership plus discriminatory labor practices perpetuate systemic racism. As discussed in earlier columns ( here and here ), consumer demand drives 70 percent of the economy. Consumers and citizens have significant influence over the shape of the economy because we — in aggregate — ultimately control almost 70 percent of it. As sustainability professionals, we need to ensure our companies do more than take a stand against racism and unfair labor practices. We must urgently guide the economy now because: In the face of worldwide protests against systemic racism and the coronavirus pandemic, many people became more conscious of what they value. How do we draw clear links between the action of shopping and what we value? So much about shopping is reflexive yet shopping and consumption patterns have been deeply altered during the pandemic. People everywhere have had to learn new behaviors. In this moment, can we introduce new behaviors to support a more just and sustainable economy? What can we do to reinforce changes and create lasting habits? Governments are making huge capital investments in their economies. Those trillions of dollars will not be readily available again for at least the next 10 years. Thus, this capital injection will define the shape of the economy for the next decade. Climate scientists say these are the exact 10 years that we have to reduce greenhouse gases. The climate horizon and COVID horizon are merging. We can’t wait 10 years to advance economic change on both fronts. If we want a more just economic system, we have two levers, voting and shopping: Vote for local, state and national leaders and policies that support minority-owned businesses and require fair and safe labor standards. Shop at minority-owned businesses and buy products from companies with a verified track record of fair and safe labor standards, just hiring practices and diverse leadership. Today we have a unique opportunity to reimagine and reshape the 70 percent of the economy that is consumer-driven. By doing so, we can shift the economy towards justice and environmental sustainability. As sustainability professionals, we need to ensure our companies do more than take a stand against racism and unfair labor practices. We need to help our companies operationalize true equality and fair labor practices throughout all its activities from board and executive representation down to supply-chain partners. Then we can guide consumers and help drive the changes our economy needs. Join me in the conversation, in the comments below or at diane@osgood.com . Pull Quote As sustainability professionals, we need to ensure our companies do more than take a stand against racism and unfair labor practices. Topics Consumer Trends Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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It’s urgent to reshape our economy towards justice and sustainability

A 20/20 view of sustainable packaging

June 15, 2020 by  
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A 20/20 view of sustainable packaging Cheryl Baldwin Mon, 06/15/2020 – 00:00 This article is sponsored by Pure Strategies . Sustainable packaging is a keystone issue for corporate sustainability. As one of the first environmental concerns companies began to tackle proactively, interest and efforts had notable resurgence in the last few years, partly spurred by the attention on ocean plastic.   Then the pandemic hit, and the market changed — characterized by higher demand for single-use packages and bags, and lower availability of recycled materials. When we look ahead, are we on the path to a circular and sustainable system for packaging? From paper vs. plastic to reusable vs. single use Shopping bags have long been a focus in sustainability — from looking at greenhouse gas impacts (paper is higher) to litter (plastic has more challenges) and significant policy action. A shift away from a focus on single-use design emerged. Studies pointed out that bags that are effectively reused can be the best environmental option.   Food service and consumer goods companies also were exploring this shift to durable packages for reuse. Over one-third of the participating product and packaging companies reported to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment that they are testing such options. While the pandemic impacted momentum for reusables in shopping bags and food services (for various reasons), it did not stop the growth of these solutions for consumer goods. Studies pointed out that bags that are effectively reused can be the best environmental option. Helping blaze the trail is TerraCycle’s Loop program. Consumer brands partner with Loop to offer products in a durable package that when empty, get collected in various channels, cleaned and sanitized by Loop, and then refilled by the manufacturer for another use. Such commercially cleaned reusable packages or consumer refillable packages are poised for growth, given their two-pronged benefits of hygiene and sustainability. Recycling takes center stage Reusable solutions are one path of a circular economy, but there is far more effort to advance another circular approach, recycling. Companies have more goals for designing for recycling and recovery, and increasing recycled content than other packaging issues. Designing recyclable packages begins with using recyclable materials. Colgate-Palmolive redesigned its toothpaste tube to be made of high density polyethylene (HDPE), instead of the traditional mix of plastics and metal that is not recyclable. Another design strategy is to avoid mixing materials. Paper cups usually have unrecyclable plastic coatings. Smart Planet Technologies developed a recyclable cup solution, and collaborative efforts such as the NextGen Cup Challenge likely will spur additional advances. Designing for recyclability, however, is not the silver bullet. Used packages need to be recycled. Recycling rates generally have been on the rise in the United States, adding up to about 50 percent of packaging and containers being recycled . However, that is largely comprised of paper and cardboard (75 percent of recycled packages). Only about 13 percent of plastic packages are recovered in the U.S. Adding to this, the pandemic led to a decrease in recycling.   Companies are improving consumer communication about recycling, such as using the How2Recycle label. There is also investment in developing recycling infrastructure and collaborating on solutions for harder to recycle items — such as The Recycling Partnership initiatives, the Materials Recovery for the Future initiative to increase film collection, the Hefty Energy Bag for chemical recycling, and the Closed Loop Partners funding expansion of recycling capability. To close the recycling loop, the recovered material needs to be used. While companies have committed to using it, fossil fuels prices were declining and then tanked during the pandemic, driving virgin plastic prices well below recovered plastic. The availability of recovered materials also decreased. Undoubtedly, companies will question their plans to increase recycled content in the current market.   To close the recycling loop, recovered material needs to be used. Companies relying on recycling as the way to effectively manage their packaging after use have a responsibility to support the end market for recovered material by continuing to use recycled content. There will be obstacles with price and availability , but they can be managed with measures such as investing in infrastructure development and design improvements (such as removing extra packaging material). Seeing the forest for the trees Responsible fiber sourcing goals were among the first sustainable packaging targets, with many expiring in 2020. Loblaws met its target in 2018 by sourcing recycled or certified fiber. IKEA, Procter & Gamble and most other companies are on track to meet their 2020 targets. While progress has been made, sourcing fiber responsibly is still a gap for too many companies. The Consumer Goods Forum and others also see a need to take fiber sourcing to the next level, reaching beyond responsible sourcing for each company’s supply chain to landscape-level approaches that reach additional suppliers within a region and support infrastructure and policies to get to a ” forest positive ” approach.   Responsible sourcing also fits into climate strategies. With over 800 companies committed to setting science-based climate targets , impacts from packaging are being evaluated. Colgate Palmolive, General Mills and Walmart have included packaging improvement in their climate programs. In addition to sourcing, reducing packaging material use is effective. As this is a cost-savings opportunity, it has been a core approach in sustainable packaging. Since 2010, Procter & Gamble had a 13.5 percent reduction in packaging material intensity and Unilever an 18 percent reduction. Room for innovation Exciting sustainable packaging developments emerged from the aim to remove chemicals of concern. Coop in Denmark led the way when the retailer stopped selling microwave popcorn until it could offer its private brand product without the harmful chemicals typically used on the inside of the bag. The new bag was not only free of the chemicals of concern but also became recyclable. There has been a growing effort across other products to remove these grease-proofing chemicals, called per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) that are used on paper-based packaging. While paper should be recyclable, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition stated that intentionally added PFAS makes a package not widely recyclable, and Norway is set to ban its use. Footprint was one of the first companies to offer fiber-based packages that are PFAS-free and certified compostable. About 5 percent of U.S. households have access to curbside composting collection — a long way from being a widely available circularity solution. Bioplastics, while sometimes compostable, can be recyclable. In 2009, Coca-Cola launched a bottle made with 30 percent bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET). By 2015, it had a 100 percent bio-based PET bottle, as other companies are looking to do the same. Further, bio-based polyethylene (PE) is found in recyclable rigid and flexible packages.   About 5 percent of U.S. households have access to curbside composting collection. Sustainable packaging is not yet a reality, but there has been progress with reducing packaging weight, sourcing fiber responsibly and exciting developments in material health and bio-based options. There remains a notable gap in building a circular packaging system.   Reusable options are emerging, but still niche, and closing the loop with packaging is faced with price premiums for recovered material and low recycling rates, especially for plastic packages. The launch of the New Plastics Economy Commitment in 2018 spurred over 200 businesses, including the largest companies such as Walmart, Target, Nestle and Unilever to aim for 100 percent reusable, recyclable and compostable plastic packaging by 2025.   These ambitious targets and related initiatives have brought extensive collaboration within and across industries, bringing hope for the ingredients necessary for progress: efficient and safe design, responsibly sourced materials and a circular packaging system.  Pull Quote Studies pointed out that bags that are effectively reused can be the best environmental option. To close the recycling loop, recovered material needs to be used. About 5 percent of U.S. households have access to curbside composting collection. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Corporate Strategy COVID-19 Forestry Sponsored Pure Strategies Circular Packaging Reuse Recycling Fiber Sourcing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article On Consumer brands partner with TerraCycle’s  LOOP  program to offer products in a durable package that when empty, get collected, sanitized, and refilled for another use. Such refillable packages are poised for growth, given their two-pronged benefits of hygiene and sustainability.   Courtesy of Loop Close Authorship

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Vien Truong: business leaders can catalyze environmental justice reform

July 22, 2019 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: How governments, businesses and NGOs can work together toward environmental equity

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Why the Paris Agreement ratification bodes ill for oil

September 7, 2016 by  
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The U.S. and China have confirmed that the global economy is about to change beyond all recognition. Now businesses and investors have to respond.

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Why the Paris Agreement ratification bodes ill for oil

Getting boards on board with sustainability

September 7, 2016 by  
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5 tips to engage the upper echelon to recognize that sustainability is for the bottom line.

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Getting boards on board with sustainability

How cities and counties are showing the way on climate action

September 7, 2016 by  
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As leaders emerge from the business and governmental sectors to address climate change, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeing trends reflected in this year’s Climate Leadership Awardee accomplishments, including collaboration among cities and counties taking a stance on climate action.

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A 10-year checkup on the quest to detox commercial products

December 7, 2015 by  
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Clean Production Action evaluates the landscape of businesses and NGOs pushing for safer chemicals.

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A 10-year checkup on the quest to detox commercial products

Community credit: Next generation financial architecture

December 7, 2015 by  
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How would nature design a financial system?

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Community credit: Next generation financial architecture

Green events blossom in St. Louis

November 24, 2015 by  
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How businesses and event planners in the Midwestern city are seizing the business opportunities embedded in the trend toward zero waste.

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Green events blossom in St. Louis

America Recycles Day Is Nov. 15. What Will You Pledge to Recycle?

November 7, 2013 by  
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As part of the 16th annual America Recycles Day on Nov. 15, U.S. schools, universities, businesses and government entities are planning fun events to drive home the importance of recycling.

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America Recycles Day Is Nov. 15. What Will You Pledge to Recycle?

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