‘REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE.’ It’s a phrase that’s been instilled heavily into our lives especially over the past 10 years. The evidence is there to prove how much use of single usage products is impacting on society and the environment around us. From slogans such as ‘Save the Turtles’ and ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ to ‘Save the Earth’, our social responsibility is becoming more prevalent than ever. This social responsibility has become a Corporate Social Responsibility for business. Therefore, we have seen noticeable changes in packaging and quality provided by some of our larger brands- in some cases this was due to corporate decision making and in others this was due to influence from customer pressure.

Primark are one of the latest companies to add to their corporate social responsibility through their ‘Primark Cares Initiative’ which already has single-use plastics, sustainable cotton and recycled materials as commitments. They have a new large paper bag designed with a candy-stripe seasonal print which can be reused as gift-wrap to enhance their commitment to the environment.

Primark aren’t the first company to do this. FatFace had this initiative back in Winter 2019, obviously with a different print. They advertised this on their Instagram with a tutorial video on how customers may use the bag to wrap a gift, whilst also acknowledging that a tag can be cut out from the bag too. Whilst some may undermine this, the sustainability factor of a paper bag as gift wrap or even to back schoolbooks is incredibly beneficial. Not only does it save on paper wastage, but it also saves people money on purchasing wrapping paper! 

Of course, paper isn’t the only single-use product businesses are reducing. Last year, McDonald’s changed their classic plastic straws to paper ones, all due to a customer petition for them to change. The argument that plastic straws don’t degrade, only break up into smaller pieces which can be swallowed by turtles, large birds and fish made public support and sign it. The popularity of the petition weighed heavily in the corporate social responsibility conscience for McDonald’s leading to them making the executive decision to follow through and change to paper straws. This effectively in turn influenced other large brands such as Starbucks and KFC changing to paper straws to match the sustainability trend.

Our high streets and fast food chains aren’t the only places who are making changes to help create a more sustainable future. Recently, ASDA have opened a ‘new sustainability store’ as a trial at their Middleton store in Leeds, which is hoped to play a major part of their plastic reduction strategy in which customers will pay less for greener choices. In order to do this the supermarket chain have partnered with major UK household brands including Kellogg’s, Radox and Persil to name a few. Again, this is a major initiative from a large business to endeavour to help the public to reduce, reuse and recycle easily.

To compliment this further ASDA have also launched a national price promise called ‘Greener at Asda Price’ which vows that loose and unwrapped products (e.g. fruit and vegetables) will cost less than their wrapped equivalents. This is not only beneficial for the environment, but it will save customers money when shopping at ASDA.

Whilst all the measures taken by the previously mentioned businesses above are a step in the right direction to achieve a greener planet, there are many businesses in society who have made little to no changes. Unfortunately, some are still stuck in their old ways and reluctant to change. Therefore, we need to make more sustainability driven decisions to improve things for our generation and for the generations to follow.

As a society we need to make changes to how we purchase, what we purchase and where we purchase from. These decisions may not seem like they are making big changes now, however over time they will have drastic effects. The responsibility ultimately comes to us to make ethically informed decisions to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet we live in! So, remember the mantra ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle’.

Holly Lucy Mc Allister is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter and LinkedIn

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