There is no doubting the fact that the green movement has taken some massive strides over the last decade to become a firm fixture in both the political and business worlds.
In the UK nearly every local council is responsible for making sure that household waste is separated into both general and recycled bins and political parties have been fighting each other to be seen as the most eco-friendly. The ruling Conservative Party even rebranded themselves to show their commitment to the environment, and now bare a logo that reflects their dedication to green issues.
The business world is also being forced to embrace their environmental responsibilities and now make sure to do things like minimize the amount of carbon dioxide they produce. In fact, companies bidding for many lucrative contracts are now forced to go green to fulfil the requirements of awarding bodies.
As the recession hit there were worries that the eco argument would be overruled by issues of price and affordability, but the momentum gathered by the movement over the last decade has made a lasting difference to the way businesses and politicians think about the environment.
While this is no doubt an excellent start and shows how keen the public are to embrace environmental issues in the 21st Century, we sometimes need to look a little deeper to be sure whether an industry or company has the substance to back up their green credentials.
In the promotional gifts industry, for example, there is a high level of debate surrounding the issue of eco-friendly promotional gifts that are made from recycled materials or carry the Fairtrade logo. By their very nature, promotional gifts are highly disposable commodities that many recipients simply throw away, so given the high amount of waste generated by these items, can it ever be claimed that they are environmentally friendly products?
There are other aspects to consider as well as the materials that they are made from. Most of these products are made in the far-east and rely on aeroplanes, ships and lorries to arrive in the country, not forgetting the fuel heavy machinery needed to make them in the first place. Given all of these considerations, can eco-friendly promotional products really be considered to be environmentally friendly?
Given the rising popularity of green issues amongst the general public it has become quite fashionable to market your company as being environmentally conscious. But given the many different aspects that need to be considered, can a large company that produces millions of products a year ever be completely sustainable? There are the manufacturing and transportation factors that we have already discussed, plus issues like the green credentials of suppliers and installing green technologies into offices to name but a few. With the rise in popularity of environmental issues, companies will be keen to capitalise on this to raise their profiles, but deeper consideration is needed by the environmentally aware consumer.
It is clear that there is still a long way to go before even western businesses are operating in a fully sustainable manner. The advances made over the last decade and the importance now placed in green matters by the general public is however an extremely positive start. If a demand exists for disposable items such as promotional gifts, it makes sense that they are made from sustainable, recycled materials that in turn can be easily disposed of to avoid further waste. There are issues in manufacture and transport that still need to be addresses, but this is reliant on big advances in technology and the economy that need more time and further investment to fix.
Where businesses and politicians are marketing themselves as green, it is important that they work hard to live up to the promises that they have made and don’t just use these as a platform from which to market their products. The last decade has been an important time for environmental issues, but it will prove to be nothing more than just a good start unless more is done to promote a greener and more ethical way of doing business.
Alan writes articles on issues surrounding the promotional gifts industry for The Promotional Gifts Company. They promote their own range of eco-friendly promotional gifts, but also try to stimulate the debate to see what more can be done to provide businesses with a sustainable promotional solution.