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By Richard Hunt
Marketing, Procurement, Agencies, Media Owners and Suppliers all need to ensure that sustainability is embedded into the whole advertising and marketing life cycle, including product end-of-life.
Smart manufacturing, intelligent sustainability, conscious procurement and slick recycling are all important but what of …product ‘End-of-Life’!…..Some are already taking responsibility, such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Sky and H&M
Sustainability… Do we really understand why we’re doing this and if so, can we maintain the change to get to a balanced environment?
Business has a conscious battle – to thrive, increase sales and offer the customer exactly what they want – but there’s another side that some of us follow. That rule is not to just thrive but to protect and nurture with a changed level of consciousness and a more sustainable and ‘greener’ approach to business that will ‘protect the environment’. That’s why we are now hopefully finding better ways to help reduce waste and emissions whilst waving a new green flag to aid the world in a more sustainable way.
And at what level does the awareness and responsibility impact the industry and who are those within it who can help make a change?
The key influencers here, those who advise and lead our brands are Marketers, Buyers, Heads of Procurement, Brand Managers and Agencies who have the opportunity to discuss every piece of marketing collateral and every campaign and at the same time, bring sustainable awareness to the table. In much the same way as discussing colour, format and distribution are central, so should be discussing materials, sustainability and recycling – that’s how we get to change a wider mind set.
Some large multi-million-dollar companies are already taking responsibility, such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Sky and H&M, but is this only because they’re in the spotlight? I would hope not.
If we are to make changes then it’s our obligation to educate our stakeholders, to increase their awareness, eventually placing demands on the manufacturer and supplier to provide and source better alternatives.
These are small steps; however awareness has crept a little further on. During 2020 most of us noticed there were less chemical trails in the sky, more bird song, more leaves on the trees and less air pollution. Global CO2 emissions fell a record 7% last year – but should it take a pandemic to trigger our awareness, for us to realise this – to stop and think? It shouldn’t but it did.
Just recently the EU passed a Climate Law to commit to a bloc-wide goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and a 50%-55% cut in emissions by 2030 – with an aim to improve quality of life through cleaner air and water, better health and a thriving natural world.
This is going to be a massive change in mind-set, not just in making people aware of what their options are, but shaping manufacturers and suppliers into seeking alternative resource to help drive that change.
Clear air pollution, halting species loss, reducing waste and promoting better use of our natural resources. Each one as important as the other but for our brand and marketing sectors the latter two are key to our industry. Reducing waste and better use of natural resources.
Our industry is becoming more and more aware of creating products with recyclable content, if not 100% then with a greener element, to make some headway in recycling. But surely, we need to better drive this for 2021 and question what we are using, what is it made of, where does it come from and how can it be recycled? But even more so, what happens to it after use and who is taking ownership for this? These are the questions that we don’t often want or think to ask!
I’d like to make a challenge for 2021, to raise awareness and take responsibility, that as procurement professionals and owners of our creative and marketing services, we become custodians of sustainability and raise awareness for the ‘END-OF-LIFE’ of each product.
We only recycle 14% of our global plastic waste – where’s the rest of it?…(in the ocean! But that’s another topic). We have to get to a point where we buy and manufacture effectively with sustainable products, reducing plastic and general waste, which creates efficiencies in world-wide recycling.
Smart manufacturing, intelligent sustainability, conscious procurement and slick recycling are all important but what of …product ‘End-of-Life’!
So what is product ‘End -of -Life’?
In 2020 we have seen incentives to reduce consumer and transport packaging. Even print and carton suppliers have offset their entire annual Carbon Footprint with the World Land Trust through the purchasing of endangered tropical habitats. To date, four UK companies have already done this.
But what’s happening to the materials we use after print – after packaging – after distribution and after use?
For consumer packaging it’s everyone’s responsibility to dispose of properly – but for campaign materials, displays, graphics and packaging etc, it should be the client, the marketer and for suppliers’ to advise on how we dispose of this in a way where we feel confident that that product, material or packaging can be recycled to the best of its ability. We have inadvertently become custodians of that supply chain therefore; we all want to sleep soundly at night – don’t we?
So, what can we do? – We all talk to clients, we advise, we recommend, and then we produce. Through those stages our advice should be on the content constituent of materials, on sourcing, on manufacturing and of course on usage, but more importantly on how your products, your advertising campaigns and marketing collateral will be used for ‘End-of-Life’ and who’s accountable?
It means talking to Carbon and Environmental consultants, meeting with fixers / suppliers who remove waste from campaign sites and how that process is managed. Talk to waste management companies about recycling options and how you can see the end product of your waste in a usable recycled format. Take ownership – who else is going to do this?
Marketers, procurement, agencies, media owners and marketing services suppliers must consciously own the materials they commission for use in advertising and marketing. A responsible chain of custody must lie with the purchaser. Some major brands are already on board as I mentioned earlier – Apple, Sky, H&M and Coca-Cola to name but a few. It’s the only way we can turn the sub-conscious into conscious procurement.
A new year and new resolutions – and with it new responsibilities for the end to end management of product life!
Cost vs Sustainability
Or should that be Short Term Gain vs Long Term Financial and Reputational Damage?
The knock-on effect from the global pandemic has of course put a strain on budgets for many marketers. And procurement of slightly more expensive or niche sustainable products could be pushed to one side, especially non-profit materials, in order to maintain operating profit.
But if we don’t reduce single use plastics, find alternative recyclable products and reduce further emissions this year, even by collaborating with organisations like the World Land Trust, you could be de-stabilising your business integrity which will cost you money further down the line.
As new green legislations come into effect around the world, such as South Koreas Green Deal, to enforce a Carbon Tax – we need to adapt to change now, educate our stakeholders to get them on board making greener procurement choices, otherwise many Governments will introduce rulings that will hit hard before your sustainable agenda is even in place!
About the author
Richard Hunt, Director at Cover-Up Media Production has over 30 years’ experience working with many media production companies and brands across the UK / London, Canada, USA and Europe including Global, Exterion Media, Carnival, EMAP and Trinity Mirror
Richard has always challenged sustainability and the use of recycled materials. He now champions better use of materials within media campaigns and how they can be managed effectively through to end-of-life – something his company Cover-Up Media Production offers every client.
You can reach Richard at email@example.com