I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
Social Innovation Plan to Create a "Plastics" Footprint
There needs to be more accountability and social innovation about the use of plastics by companies and consumers, says the United Nations: "Plastic accounts for four-fifths of the accumulated garbage in the world's oceans." Doug Woodring, a campaigner in Hong Kong, is trying to turn things round. He heads up the Plastic Disclosure Project which is encouraging companies to reduce the amount of plastic they use and lower their environmental impact.
The Plastic Disclosure Project launched October 2011 and is asking companies, along with other major plastic consumers, to disclose how much plastic they are using, with the idea that measuring is the first step to minimising, re-using, and finding alternatives. This initiative wants to have the same success as the "Carbon Disclosure Project," which has more than 3,000 organisations as members and is widely credited with driving carbon reductions at a company level. Woodring wants to establish the social innovation concept of a "plastics footprint" alongside the carbon footprint (carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organisation, event, product or person), and more recently, the water footprint.
Woodring is trying to gain momentum for his social innovation campaign by sending out easy questionnaires, while encouraging investor groups, consultants, and other NGOs, to act as champions. So far one major cosmetics brand has completed the questionnaire, hospitals, sports clubs have asked about it, and investment funds in the UK, US, India, Taiwan, and Australia have agreed to be partners. Woodring says, "The Plastic Disclosure Project is a great way to get companies and communities to value and look at plastic in a different way. We're not saying 'Don't use it.' We are saying, 'Let's close the loop.'"
There is thinking that plastic should be an easier social innovation sell than carbon because of its "higher consumer touch point" and visibility. Woodring believes, "If your power plant tells you they have reduced their carbon footprint by 20%, you don't really know what that means. But if you say 'We've changed our packaging and it's 50% lighter, it's a different shape, and now we can re-use it', that's something everyone can understand."
In reality, plastics has a long way to go before it approaches the same relevance as its carbon counterpart. The American Chemistry Council argues that the lifecycle of plastic packaging is less carbon and energy-intensive than paper. So, instead of reducing plastic for its own sake, the Council calls for greater enforcement of litter laws, more recycling and energy-from-waste, and further research. Forty-seven plastics trade associations signed a "global declaration" last year, agreeing to such measures. In the meantime, the world still needs a solution, as these plastic refuse dumps continue to affect the oceans and the Plastic Disclosure Project provides a positive opportunity for companies to reduce their impacts, while being part of something that's recognised by the public.
Photo Credit: Doug Lee