The Sustainability of Sustainability


What was once called a corporate fad and maligned as greenwashing, the practice of developing and maintaining an ecologically sound business model has proven an enduring concern for more and more brands. One might even say green is the new black, but in recent years, sustainability is clearly more than just a trendy flash in the pan. 

It’s a sobering statistic, but by 2050 it’s predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. In fact, every day 28,000 tons of single-use plastics are being disposed of in our waterways. These plastics are consumed by fish, which are in turn consumed by us. While destroying natural ecosystems is bad enough, our wastefulness is literally poisoning the food chain.  

As Washington drags its feet regarding anything even close to legitimate climate change action, brands are stepping up, acknowledging the role of production in our ever more wasteful consumption. Absent regulation, brands are enacting real change throughout the entire supply chain.

Take for example Loop, a big-box retailer operating on an entirely digital straight-to-consumer model. Like a green Amazon, Loop offers various common brands including Clorox and Hagen Das in eco-friendly packaging. They’ve even removed the cardboard box from the equation, opting for a reusable shipping container users re-populate with spent receptacles to be sent back and refilled for re-delivery. 

Other brands have also taken it upon themselves to eradicate single-use plastics from their processes. Accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage, only 14% of packaging is recycled. With an eye on reversing this trend, Unilever owned Dove has announced a move to 100% recycled plastic packaging by the end of 2020. The initiative stands to reduce the use of virgin plastics by more than 20,500 tons per year. Brands like Lush and By Human Kind have made significant moves to cut down on packaging as well, the former focusing on eliminating packaging altogether through solid state products and the latter developing recycled and recyclable paper packaging to help the environment. 

For the products that can’t be recycled, Lush also offers a return-for-rewards system allowing fans to return five spent containers to any store in return for a free face mask, thus turning an ecologically minded recycling program into a brand building opportunity. 

Airing from 2006-2013, Tina Fey’s prescient NBC comedy 30 Rock gleefully lampooned many of the most shallow aspects of the media/corporate agenda, and greenwashing was not excluded. Played by Friends alum David Shwimmer, the character of Greenzo, NBC’s Green Mascot, embodied a shallow corporate effort to appear ecologically minded without enacting any policy changes. 

Brought to life as something of a values based golem lacking any real substance, Greenzo was a revealing portrayal of a clumsy and clueless corporate activism clearly more focused on a cash-in. 

But as the climate crisis carries on, and as woke Twitter continues to call out lackluster, or otherwise ineffectively placating brand efforts, we’re truly seeing brands take the lead in a reusable revolution. As customers demand action and vote with their pocketbooks, wise brands are responding with more than cursory solutions. The message is clear, Greenzo go home, consumers want real change. 

How Sweden Unlimited is Limiting Its Plastic

Taking a cue from the CPG and cosmetics industries, Sweden Unlimited has initiated our own eco-friendly practices. While our product is virtual our and doesn’t produce any physical waste, office isn’t. And after running some numbers, we realized we were consuming over 5,000 plastic bottles a year! For us, this was unacceptable. In searching for a solution, we discovered Bevi, a wonderful service that produces smart water coolers offering still or sparkling water in a variety of healthy flavors. In making this move to reusable water containers, we’re thrilled to be able to provide for the health of our employees and guests, while also promoting the health of our planet. At Sweden Unlimited, the only thing we’re limiting is our carbon impact.






Richard Agerbeek

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