What you do 276 times a year, and why you must stop.

room44 Ltd

15th July 2019

This may be a bit uncomfortable for some of you, so let’s start by talking about something that many people find funny.

I’m from Cornwall, and for many years there’s been a small but vocal movement for Cornish independence from the UK. Funny? It depends who you are and what your perspective is.

When Brexit first became a thing, some Yorkshire folk decided that it too had a claim for independence. ‘YEXIT’ was floated, and the arguments for its ability to stand alone sound pretty good: a population close to that of Denmark, a larger economy than some entire EU nations, and Yorkshire athletes won more medals than Canada in the Rio Olympics. Amusing? Not to Yorkshire. To the rest of us? Maybe, but stranger things have happened.

How we choose to look at issues reflects our perspective.

Here’s another one: according to a Hubbub, UK consumers buy, use and throw away 11 billion pieces of single-use packaging a year, and that’s just for lunch. That’s the equivalent of 276 pieces of plastic for every person in the UK – every year. On average, more than one piece of plastic every working day per person. Which kind of cancels out the argument that individuals can’t make a difference.

Now, as a consumer, I know that none of us wants to be responsible for plastic waste, but we do want to eat. The opportunities to use and refill our own food savers, reusable cups and rented tiffin cans are growing. The opportunities for buying single-use plastics are not yet decreasing, but they will.

Logically, the pressure on consumer behaviour and the financial penalties that will come to bear on the plastics supply chain will squeeze companies whose entire output is of plastic.

Most of these companies are still bullish. They think this is a problem for tomorrow because, today, their customers are supporting them. Phrases I’ve borrowed before are apposite again here:

  1. The difference between animals and humans is our ability to deny reality.
  2. When consumers stop buying crap, they’ll stop making crap.

Plastic manufacturers, on their websites, are still saying things like:

“We’re global specialists in packaging for food and drink, dedicated to making every consumer experience enjoyable, consistent, and safe. Our purpose is to help great products reach more people, more easily.”

“Make food look great.”

“A leading global design and engineering company in plastic products.”

With some simple research, you can see who is working to introduce pulp-based products and where the focus on plastic is still a priority. There remains a lot of ‘selling what we can make’ rather than ‘making what we can sell’ embedded in the psychology of these businesses.

In business, the CSuite is where strategic decisions are sanctioned. The Chief Marketing Officer is probably the person who gets to assess the options a company has. Every company needs someone in this position to battle against inherent short-termism that always bubbles to the surface when targets and financial planning are the focus.

Unfortunately, according to Seth Godin, the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is about eighteen months. About the same amount of time a CEO takes to realise that there is no easy fix to the corner her or his plastic producing machines are in. Ironically, the person with the long-term strategic brain is the person your company is most likely to lose the quickest.

Whether you have a desire to change your business attitude to consumers’ and environmental issues, or you simply need to nail a new direction to the wall for everyone to buy into, you may well stumble at the first hurdle – picking exactly what to invest in, out of the noise in your market. Luckily, this is what we do.

Future thinking. Future-proofing.

Get in touch. Time is ticking.

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