Sustainability Agenda

According to research released earlier this year by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and environmental nonprofit As You Sow, large brands waste $11.4 billion every year because of poor packaging policies.

Although it is easy to point the finger at large corporations that use more resources, companies of all sizes must do a better job of managing the way that they approach environmental and sustainable packaging policies. Not only will creating or improving your sustainability agenda better the environment, it will help your brand and its bottom line in the long run.

What Sustainability Looks Like

For companies with no previous experience with sustainability initiatives, it’s often tough to know where to begin. Even if your business already has an environmental policy, it’s always wise to periodically evaluate it to ensure your policies stay in alignment with the key principles of a good sustainability initiative, which include:

1. Customer Engagement 

Don’t make sustainability only about your company and its internal policies and actions toward recyclable packaging. Instead, position it as a team effort between your brand and its customers and followers. Offer easy ways that people can join in on your company’s efforts to attain sustainability. 

After redesigning its packaging to be 90 percent compostable, Panera also created initiatives to allow customers to more easily recycle their packaging and to donate to community organizations. A brand that not only operates under a sustainable packaging policy but also encourages its consumers to be more sustainable is one that has a chance to make real strides with its sustainable packaging initiatives.

2. Real Examples

It’s nice to come up with a fancy, long-winded corporate sustainability mission statement that you can include on a website or a brochure that you give out at a trade show. But what people are really interested in is what you are doing to achieve that goal. 

One of the brands in the NRDC’s report that achieved better practices recognition was McDonald’s. McDonald’s has done more than just write and talk about its corporate sustainability policies: The company launched a separate website that provides an in-depth explanation of its sourcing, sustainability and nutritional campaigns, as well as real examples of measures taken by the company and its suppliers to cut down on waste. 

McDonald’s provides an exact percentage breakdown of where waste comes from at a typical McDonald’s restaurant and how the company is planning on reducing each type. This open, honest approach to sustainability is exactly the type of example that consumers want to see from the brands with which they engage.

3. Create Internal Sustainability Leaders

In his book “The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook,” Bob Willard writes that the sustainability problem in the corporate world is really a leadership issue. He contends that if companies can increase the amount of strong, decisive action that is taken by high-level managers toward implementing sustainability policies, real environmental change can occur.

 How can companies make sure that they have sufficient environmental leadership, especially if they don’t have an existing sustainability policy in place? One easy way is to assign one or more sustainability champions to oversee your sustainability initiatives. These team members are the ones responsible for understanding, improving and reporting on your company’s sustainability initiatives. By taking decisive action and raising internal awareness through effective communication, sustainability champions can transform any organization into a sustainable one. 

The Future of Sustainability

These are all ways that companies can improve their sustainability initiatives, but they all need one key ingredient to work effectively: internal buy-in starting at the highest level. Your C-level executives must be aware that getting greener can help your business by cutting down on energy costs, gaining tax credits and facilitating stronger relationships with customers.

Every organization and consumer in every industry needs to band together to work toward cutting down on consumer waste to ensure that posterity can enjoy as many of the earth’s natural resources as possible. 

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