Coffee & Clothes? Let’s Choose Collective Consciousness
By Kirsten Buck, Head of Research & Sustainability
By Kirsten Buck, Head of Research & Sustainability
As promised, here is #1 in our Unorthodox and Unplugged blog series featuring the voices of PTHR! It is my privilege to introduce Kirsten Buck our Head of Research and Sustainability with an excellent thought piece connected to the work she does best. **Peep the bottom for Kirsten’s impressive pledge upon 50 likes!**
After taking a three-month break in the relationship, I finally gave in last week. I caved; putting my new found gritty determination and confident realisation to the side. The realisation that has been based on moral high grounds that my relationship was no longer good for our environment nor did it enhance my life. This relationship was with take away coffee and the realisation was that I no longer needed it!
However, this relationship was reignited when I saw on Instagram that I could pick up a Starbucks nearby whilst maintaining a ‘safe distance’. I’m not going to lie to you, I felt pretty excited at the prospect of picking up this treat. Three months, after all, was a long break for me. I have been enjoying take away coffees since I was a student. At University, the Frappuccino® was a social drink without drinking alcohol; then in the workplace, the latte was a conformity coffee with colleagues; and now a mum, serious sleep deprivation justified any coffee craving. My coffee yesterday, however, left me disappointed. Did it taste bad? No. Did it taste different from what I remember? No. Was it worth the marginal risk I took to obtain it? Maybe. So why did it disappoint? I think I know why.
My perfectly warm, caramel-laden-coffee disappointed; as after all these years, I have finally realised – after a break – that my behaviour is not sustainable. I am not just talking about the environmental aspect associated with numerous takeaway treats – note, in the latter years I have preferred a reusable cup – but also how realistic is it to drive fifteen minutes to get a coffee where there exists a health risk, and for a £4 transaction?
The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly changing behavioural norms and businesses are seeing this week after week. My big adventure to a Starbucks highlighted to me why the issue of sustainability in business is more prevalent than ever. Consumers, clients, and suppliers are interacting differently and needs are changing, and changing fast. Only businesses who have invested in sustainability strategies shall prevail. The RSA is an organisation that is a shining example of how to do this successfully; from their ‘Sustainability Network’ to truly thinking outside of the box, using “creativity and enterprise” to build a new, fair, sustainable economy.
Sustainability is a bit of a buzz-word, but what does it actually mean within a business context? It is not just the impact businesses are making on the environment, it is far broader. Sustainability strategies should also encompass principles to deliver economic growth and proactive social responsibility. These three elements combined can offer a competitive edge for businesses when faced with a crisis. The aspirational B Corporation supports this definition of sustainability whilst emphasising there must be a balance between purpose and profit.
This post does not aim to detail how to successfully develop a sustainability strategy for your business, nor does it seek to boast about what we, at PTHR, have committed to this year. Nor does it seek to preach how you should act responsibly to ensure sustainability on a personal or collective level. It is more to express that the sustainability challenges we face are real and worsen as we deplete our Earth’s resources, accelerating due to; global warming, our society’s consumerist hunger, and the consequences of our post-pandemic world response.
There is a new hunger greater than that of our aforementioned consumerism though. Greta Thunberg and her growing army of eco-warriors have put the issue of climate change on a truly global stage. Her message transcends age, gender, religion, and geography. Her message is powerful, pure, and sustainable. The need for our world and business leaders to listen is not going away in a hurry.
Before coronavirus (B.C), the hot topic was the (over)use of single-use plastic. This concern has diminished somewhat in the last three months as medical necessity has meant that gowns, masks, and other sterile garments must be discarded after one use. Plastic is not a bad material, it is in fact, very useful for its hygiene properties. What is bad though, is human behaviour with plastic.
How has it ever been acceptable to throw an empty plastic bottle into a river? Or chuck a sandwich wrapper into a bush because the bin was too far away? Which leads me back to my relationship with coffee-shop-coffees. The coffee isn’t bad, nor is purchasing one. It is how both the business and consumer deal with the plastic problem that establishes the degree of sustainability for business and individual behaviour. Reducing carbon footprints, giving back to the community, and being adaptable to ensure economic stability are undoubtedly good pressures for businesses to have.
I may have intimated that this post would not preach to you on how to act more responsibly and that it would not outline PTHR’s ‘Pledge to our Planet’. However, for the good of our world, I would like to ask just two things?
* If over 50 of you like this post on LinkedIn and commit to trying this challenge, I will also commit to the no new clothes challenge! Go big or go home, right?