Sunday, July 29, 2007

Swords & Ploughshares

It must be hard for those who see livelihoods threatened not to see some issues in terms of potential conflict: BPF to battle green backlash

So I am pleased to see the tone being adopted here.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is much in the world of plastics that may not be 'necessary', and hence contribute poorly in an environmental sense. And yes, packaging is copping more than its fair share, again probably with some deserved. But I am trying to assess if all I see and hear in the media, from politicians, pressure groups and, indeed, the media, is warranted in the greater enviROI scheme of things.

For good or ill, we are talking about a fundamental part of a capitalist, consumerist society, along with everything else that may be associated with buying and selling, from design to advertising. So when it comes to what is, and isn't 'necessary', I find the icons of evil that get selected to be so far very, well, selective.

And way too much onus is being placed on the consumer to effect change using hype, spin and, in many cases guilt or threat. I guess you guys may not like where I am going with this, but a lot is simply at the wrong end. If a 4x4 or a bottle of water (which may have been missed in some areas of late if 'banned') is legal to make and market, if they are so bad why on earth is there all this official effort to stop 'us' buying them only once they arrive on the shelves?

So maybe this can work to 'your' advantage. Once you get to legislative measures the argument has to be a bit more sensible, with all pros and cons evaluated. Which will eliminate the ill-informed, the knee-jerk and the bandwagon jumpers. Having been to such as Total Packaging recently and been persuaded by some of the arguments and explanations, I think the public has a right, and definitely need to know the reasoning behind many choices to help them arrive at sensible purchase decisions. But there are limits. I live in dread of the CD-Rom that will come with my crisp packet to explain its health, food miles and carbon consequences in every format accepted by all parties just to tick a few more boxes.

One simple fact that struck me from the show was simple economics. Why would anyone spend all this money if they didn't have to (ok, there are truly excessive design/materials to encourage purchase - who decides, though, what is and isn't... in any industry?). But also there is such as the enviROI of food waste versus that of the packaging to prevent it. Or the cost to consumer, and planet, of damaged rejects.

Green cannot, and should not be viewed just in terms of black and white.

All concerned have a duty to make the decisions behind what is done with good reason clear. And, I would suggest, not as an industry on the defensive but, as a brand that is, as you suggest... confident, but concerned. But make sure the public believes you are concerned for the right reasons or, as with Live Earth, the message can be undermined by the credibility of some messengers.

While I have mixed views on plastic bags (and certainly on all that is wrong with the massively wasteful bits of media-nonsense such as the 'I am not a plastic bag' effort), they should be, as you say, a pretty trivial issue. Yet you need to be careful how you defend them. If they stand up environmentally in comparison to other options then I would like to hear the justification. And would be more impressed if it's not just on a point of principle, but rationality. If the argument strays into whether it's 'worth it' as the money is mostly from overseas then one moves to murkier waters.

The environment is not a problem to be dealt with; it is an opportunity to embrace. And to secure your industry's part in protecting the future you need to demonstrate how integral it is to every aspect of consumer life... and that there is a commitment to mitigating the potential downsides.

I'm not so sure where the fault (opportunity?) lies, but speaking as a consumer I for one am astounded at how woeful the provision of adequate mechanisms of proactive disposal (primarily via recycling, or my personal favourite for obvious reasons: reuse!) still are, or indeed adequate information on how, when and where to do anything 're' properly. Despite the squillions so far blown on campaigns that may better have been first invested in infrastructure. So yes... be part of the solution and be seen to take a lead in making sense of all this... and embarrass into silence, or support, those who would seek easy capital as a consequence.

Stick with the facts, but remember we do live in a world where these get dressed up for 'sale' just as a slickly by all protagonists as a box of Ferrero Rocher (I am sure every Lib Dem's and Independent journalist's partner looks forward to their bag of boiled sweets on Valentines as they pop off for a weekend in Barcelona). So I look forward to some interesting times ahead.

No comments: