Cutting through the Greenwash – Navigating the Minefield of Corporate Sustainability

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Both rising consumer pressure and government initiatives have significantly accelerated businesses investment in time, money, and effort into to be considered ‘sustainable’. Sustainability is imperative to a business’s survival as consumer trends are indicating sustainability can determine the profitability of your company and the retention of your customer base and employees.

What is sustainability?

On a regional and global scale, the standard of what is and is not sustainable is blurred and has different meanings to every person. Unfortunately, sustainability has become a highly contentious topic. Corporate sustainability can be understood as the action or strategy a business takes to make a positive impact on the environment which can involve the altering of business practices, such as logistics, manufacturing, and packaging, even though it may not be profitable. A ‘green business’ considers the best interests of the environment at heart, understanding that supporting the community and economy contributes to the health of the structure in which it operates, and ultimately benefits all parties.

When looking at the sustainability of packaging materials, we must look at the complete end-to-end manufacturing and supply process to gain a true picture of the item’s sustainability. When we take into consideration, it’s country of origin, how the base product is sourced and harvested, how the product’s manufactured, its ease of recyclability or disposal, whether or not it can and will be reused, its chemical componentry, and therefore its total carbon footprint, it is difficult to say that one material is inherently more sustainable than another. Terms including compostable, biodegradable and recyclable are important to understand when exploring sustainability, as is the correct disposal of a product or packaging material.

Why is sustainability important to business?

The impact of just one business investing in sustainability initiatives can be large. As well as being important in doing our part in being conscious of our impact on the earth and its resources, employing sustainability initiatives into your business strategy can drive positive brand perception and market share. Perceived sustainability can often be the deciding factor for both clients and end-consumers, bringing a competitive advantage to your business as 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve their impact on the environment.

Additionally, businesses have seen increases in talent attraction and retention, through focusing on sustainability. 40% of millennials, now the largest workforce demographic, would take a position in a company that is environmentally responsible, even if it means taking a pay cut.

Education is the Solution

A clear barrier to businesses becoming sustainable is getting overwhelmed when discussing and understanding sustainability. This can mean businesses do not engage in sustainable business activities or are led astray when trying to do the right thing. Misunderstanding sustainability can lead to businesses falling victim to those operating under the false pretense that their business and products are sustainable, known as ‘greenwashing’. Without a clear understanding on how to achieve sustainability, both by the business and the end-consumer, means more harm can be done than good, despite the intention.

Here is where education comes in, as educating yourself as a business as well as your customers is a step towards starting a genuine sustainability strategy and providing clarity around sustainability. Education helps bridge the gap between knowing you need to incorporate sustainability in your business strategy and implementing it. A true understanding of sustainability and being able to effectively communicate and educate customers on this can be the difference between a business conforming to ‘eco-friendly’ trends, and instead taking ownership and having confidence in their sustainability initiatives.

Too often companies are focused on a product that ticks the box of looking and sounding like a sustainable packaging solution, but when looking past the surface, the true sustainability of a product can be questionable, and if education and insights are provided, oftentimes products which may not have as good of a perception could have less of an impact on the environment.

An effective way to educate yourself is to choose business partners that are willing to challenge baseless trends and offer full transparency in their supply chain and product sustainability. With their finger on the pulse of all the latest innovations in sustainable materials in the relevant market, a sustainable business partner can act as both an expert and an advisor, to provide insight, knowledge, and education.
It’s important to challenge the activities and ides of vendors and potential partners to understand how they will help you achieve the outcomes that have a true impact for your business and your customers.

Thermogard takes the guess work out of how to be sustainable, by providing transparency on the cool-chain materials available in the market, and how they can be tailored to your business transit and sustainability needs. We understand it is important to consider the full scope of product viability, including cost, thermal performance, and the real environmental impact. Through our focus on innovation in sustainability, Thermogard has the breadth of knowledge and capability to deliver solutions that you can have confidence in to make a true impact.

To undeniably state that one material is more sustainable than an another is a result of bias, so instead we help you to understand the full impact of each material including its post-consumer requirements for recycling, reuse, or biodegradation. We pride ourselves on helping you reach a solution free from sensationalized sustainability trends, allowing you to make the decision of sustainability your own for your business.

Let us help you on your sustainability journey, get in touch today.