Wendy Bartlett joins in with Greta Thunberg's cry to make a real change
This morning, as I write this article, Greta Thunberg has been speaking at a climate summit and asking the world ‘How dare you?'. It's a confrontational question, but an important one. It made me think – how dare we use a plastic straw when we don't really need one? – I'm not sure why I still get these with my G&Ts. How dare we use a disposable cup when we can have a china one? And one that always amazes me, how dare we use a disposable takeaway box when we are going to sit in a restaurant?
Once upon a time in staff restaurants, we never had takeaway containers – we used to eat where we bought our food. Life wasn't so fast-paced, so we had the time to do so. Things have changed.
The convenience we now have through takeaway packaging means we have created more waste. So, while making life easier on one side, we have complicated it on the other by now having to spend time working out how to get rid of it all. It's the price of convenience and not thinking it through.
For me, the most irritating part in all of this is the fact that there is a lot of miscommunication about the issue and how to tackle it. While some say let's save on packaging and focus on that part of journey, they don't think about the total journey and responsibility they then have.
Some businesses may be using the most sustainable packaging, but customers still put it in the wrong waste receptacle, causing it to be rejected.
Then, when it goes out of the door, it then goes into the wrong waste streams – companies don't want to pay to get it processed by a more responsible waste company.
There are some serious and obvious issues here. The process becomes too complicated and difficult to manage.
That's why I was pleased to give our support to the Recycled Plastic Rating (RPR), launched by Mark Jankovich of Delphis Eco. It's very simple: the RPR labels show how much of a product's packaging is made from recycled plastic. Customers will be able to choose to buy a product based on how sustainable its packaging is. It will shift the emphasis from ‘this can be recycled' to ‘this is how much of this has been recycled'. It will literally take millions of tonnes of plastic out of the ocean.
We have recently published our latest Fruitful World CSER report. I'm very proud of this because most of the initiatives have been driven and devised by our teams on the frontline.
One of these initiatives is the complete banning of disposable items for team members. This means I carry a keep-cup and a refillable water bottle (large handbags are now very useful indeed!). It's a small change, but our teams will be making a huge difference by doing so.
If you are going to do something, keep it simple and do small things, but do it well. That way, as a whole, it will be bigger. We do lots of small things, but we are able to align our targets to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, so we are helping to make a big difference.
All of this is good for business – it makes the team feel that they are making the difference; it makes clients and customers happy that they can make the right choices; and it actually improves bottom line as a result – it's good business practice.
What's bad in all of this is that we've got ourselves into this mess in first place. But I do think that by taking small steps, you can ingrain this into your teams and make a huge difference.
Next time you're in your product or food development meetings, ask the ‘how dare you?' question. As somebody who hasn't always done this in the past, I will now.
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