For years now, environmentalists have been calling on the business sector to set more ambitious goals when it comes to the environment. With consumers catching up and being more informed, the demand for climate-friendly products and services has never been greater and the corporate sector is responding – big names like IKEA, PepsiCo and Nestle are hitting the headlines after announcing their climate goals and plans.
We know. These are NOT names that one would usually associate with ethical or sustainability business but improvement is an improvement and with the ticking time bomb of climate change ever-present, a bit of optimism is essential for all green warriors.
Small, indie brands with sustainability at their core will always have a special part in our hearts but the reality is that many eco-conscious products are inaccessible for people for a whole host of reasons – location, budget, caring responsibilities, available time or disabilities. In order for real change to occur, affordable and widely-available products made by household names need to become sustainable on a large scale.
What made the news…
Did you know that IKEA, everyone’s favourite spot for meatballs and flatpack furniture, uses 1% of the world’s entire commercial wood supply? That’s right – one company uses a whole 1%. Trees are nature’s original carbon capture technology and thinking of so many of them destined to become cheap furniture feels all kinds of wrong.
So, what is IKEA’s plan? In 2019, IKEA announced it’s People and Planet Positive strategy. This outlined the company’s environmental plans, which detailed their goal to become ‘climate positive’ and source 100% renewable energy. It also included a commitment to ban single-use plastic by 2020.
And on the tree front? The business’s long-term goals include a pledge to source all materials from ‘sustainable forests’. Additionally, IKEA supports a number of forestry projects with organizations like WWF and Sow a Seed and most recently bought 11,000 acres of forest in Georgia from the Conservation Fund to protect it from development.
An unlikely pairing, PepsiCo and Beyond Meat recently announced plans for a partnership. Beyond Meat is best known for the Beyond Burger, a plant-based patty that will satisfy the cravings of even the most dedicated meat-lovers. As part of PepsiCo’s efforts to reduce their carbon footprint by moving towards more plant-based products, the two companies will work together to produce a new range of plant-based beverages and snacks.
Nestlé, the world’s largest food producer, is not exactly known for its ethical business practices. However, recently the brand is making moves to reduce its plastic packaging. For a company that produces 600 tonnes of plastic every year, this is a welcome step in the right direction.
And it’s not just consumer brands.
Big-time players across industries are shouting about the ambitious plans too.
Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned perfume and taste company, has announced a new ESG strategy which included a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2021.
In Singapore, City Developments Limited (CDL) has become the first large business in Southeast Asia to sign the World Green Building Council’s (WorldGBC) net-zero carbon buildings commitment.
Mondi, a leading packaging manufacturer, announced their goal to make all the products 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
But how much of this is greenwashing?
While it’s exciting to see household names finally acknowledge the climate crisis and announce plans to improve the way they do business, are they doing enough? Many companies are being criticized by consumers and activists alike for publishing impressive climate goals but without clear plans and measurable targets to back them up.
Terms like “sustainable” “green” and “environmentally-friendly” are popping up in everyone’s marketing. The issues with this being that they are not legally defined terms and while they sound great, are generally meaningless without a clear and transparent plan to back them up.
Every year, The International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN), does a “sweep” of corporate websites. Their latest sweep, of close to 500 websites, found that 4 in 10 are “providing information on environmental criteria that could be considered misleading and potentially breaking consumer laws.” In addition to the use of undefined claims like “eco”, many are also showing fake labels and failing to disclose carbon emission details.
So, are we impressed?
Positive change is always welcome. The bigger a business, the more complex their systems are and a large-scale change is a big undertaking. Plastic and carbon emission reduction targets are exactly what is needed so it’s exciting to see industries getting on board. However, it’s clear that in some cases this is being treated as more of a PR exercise than a genuine commitment. We applaud green steps – little or big – but we want to see more ambitious goals, clearer targets and more transparency from industry leaders and an end to widespread greenwashing.
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