Sustainability has become a business imperative.
Long gone are the days of doing something good for the environment, or local community being a nice thing to do when times were good, or in celebration of company milestones.
There is now a very real likelihood that if businesses don’t pay as much attention to the impact of their products on people and planet as they do to their bottom-line profit, they simply won’t survive.
In this context, it isn’t surprising that everyone seems to be talking about sustainability.
And yet, talking about sustainability isn’t easy. The term is broad, intangible and a little confusing. It’s understandable that many businesses still don’t know where to begin.
There are so many elements to becoming a sustainable business, and making products more sustainable: Reducing waste, using renewable energies, minimising the use of virgin raw materials… these are not always easy to achieve if they’re not part of the agenda from the very start.
With so many organisations effectively playing catch-up, it’s perhaps not surprising that some fall victim to accusations of ‘greenwashing’.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is when sustainability claims are made by an organisation that either aren’t true, or aren’t contextualised in view of the overall sustainability of that organisation and its operations.
Sustainability experts talk about ‘material impacts’. Simply put, this is the biggest negative impacts of an organisation’s operations and products on people and planet. These are the issues that businesses should be tackling.
Experts would say that it’s ok to talk about other areas of progress, as long as organisations are transparent about how that progress sits within their overall sustainability journey as a business, and the work they’re doing to reduce those biggest material impacts.
In short, it’s all about context – contextualising what is able to be accomplished right now, within the bigger picture of what you’re striving to achieve, and your plan for how you’re going to get there.
Avoiding greenwashing starts with the acceptance that sustainability is a journey and not a destination. It is always moving, meaning that to be a sustainable business you have to be moving too; always looking for how things can be done better, with less negative impact on people and planet and – in time – perhaps instead creating a positive impact on people and planet.
Becoming a sustainable business may require re-engineering products using sustainable raw materials, re-designing processes to be less polluting and more energy efficient, and re-educating customers on new purchase models and newly-implemented recycling schemes.
Whether you’ve got a lot of work to do to or you’re already well on your way, avoiding greenwashing is very simple really – it’s just about being honest.
Nobody is going to criticise a business that is genuinely trying to become more sustainable, if it knows where it is coming from, is upfront about it, and has a plan to get where it wants to go.
That’s because, in sustainability, it is ok to be trying but to not yet have all the answers. Businesses do, however, need to go out and find those answers.
PALLITE® Group: Our sustainability journey
At PALLITE® Group, we are fortunate in that we started life as a business offering more sustainable product solutions to the market.
Established first as a manufacturer of paper pallets, we set out with the intention to design sustainability into our products from the very beginning.
We now offer a wide range of sustainable packaging products including sustainable shipping crates, sustainable void fill and sustainable protective packaging – packaging solutions that consider the bigger picture and cause as little harm as possible to people and planet during their manufacture, use, and disposal.
From their basic function and use in the supply chain, to what happens to them once they have reached the end of their useful life, we consider at the design stage the entire lifecycle of our packaging products to ensure they fit with this ethos, consulting The Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s definition of sustainable packaging, which defines it as:
Beneficial, safe and healthy throughout its life cycle
Cost effective and offering equivalent performance in the marketplace
Sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy
Using renewable or recycled source materials where possible
Manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
Being made from materials that are healthy in all possible end-of-life scenarios
Able to be effectively recovered and used in closed loop cycles
Optimising materials and energy use through its design.
All our products are made from just two materials: paper and biodegradable PVA glue, and contain no nails, screws or other fixings that would complicate their recycling or be retained in the environment at the end of their life.
The innovative honeycomb design at the centre of our signature paper cardboard allows us to create packaging products that use as little material as possible while still offering impressive strength and protection. When properly cared for, they can be re-used multiple times without losing any of their strength, and they are all 100% recyclable at the end of their useful lives.
As a business, we are committed to helping companies to switch away from environmentally polluting plastic packaging to more sustainable packaging solutions that can also reduce the carbon footprint of their shipping operations, reduce fuel consumption, and transport emissions, and save them money at the same time.