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Corporate environmental responsibility

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I am a big believer in everyone doing their bit to better the planet – I don’t believe we shouldn’t try and do the right thing just because other people are doing a worse job than we are. That’s a cop out.

That being said, I would love to see corporations take on more responsibility and show more leadership when it comes to plastic waste. They have power here to do good. In 2018 McDonald’s pledged to phase out plastic straws by 2020 and trialled paper straws in a whopping two of it’s 970 stores nationally. Well it’s three-quarters of the way through 2020 now and I still get plastic straws automatically added to the drinks tray if we are popping through a drive through. Now with added infuriation and guilt as the straws our now wrapped (have had both plastic and paper wrapping) thanks to COVID-19.

McDonald’s faced a backlash over the paper straws with consumers arguing that their thick shakes would be impossible to suck up using a paper straw. Okay, we will keep killing marine life so you can comfortably consume your beverage through a plastic straw, rather then using the centuries-old technique of raising the rim of a cup to your mouth. Seems fair. All this whinging rarely ever equates to a drop in sales. It’s a bit of noise but few people craving a thick shake will make a stance over the refusal to supply a plastic straw.

Have you heard of greenwashing? It’s a relatively new kid on the marketing block, but it refers to a company deceptively trying to persuade the public that their products, services and values are environmentally friendly and therefore better. At best the effects of greenwashing can be lumped in with any other marketing tactic. If you are savvy you know that washing powder with the whiter-than-white results isn’t going to make you as happy as the lady on the ad (and it’s always a lady!), or to read the label when it says “natural flavours and colours” and find a bunch of numbers and chemicals on the back. You will also not be likely to believe a claim that you are buying carbon neutral moisturiser or whatever the product may be with out digging a little deeper.

At the other end of the scale greenwashing is actually worse for the planet than just not making any environmental claims about your product to begin with. A prime example is Volkswagen. They touted the low-emissions features of its cars in the marketing of them. All the while they had fitted their vehicles with a ‘defeat’ device which detected when the vehicle was undergoing emissions testing and altered the performance to reduce the emissions level. If these companies diverted the funds from greenwashing to actually actively making a difference both the environment and their bottom line would benefit.

In 2014, Nielsen conducted a poll of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries to measure how passionate consumers were about sustainability related to their purchases and their support of ecologically responsible efforts. More than half (55%) of participants were willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that were committed to positive social and environmental impact.