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Consumer Technology

Published on September 14th, 2019 | by Scott Cooney


Pushing Sustainability Through The Supply Chain — Our Experience

September 14th, 2019 by  

Most of us want to live in a world without waste. The problem is, it’s everywhere. Buy organic food? It’s often wrapped in plastic. Produce? Bioplastic bags don’t cut the mustard for some foodies (how did cut the mustard become an expression?). Order a pallet to buy in bulk? Guess what — stuff is effectively saran wrapped onto the pallet to keep it from sliding around. Turns out, plastic is useful.

But solutions are out there, and given the unreal momentum the anti-single-use plastic movement has, it appears that people are waking up at a rate I’ve never seen in my life as an eco-warrior. Marriott and India’s largest online retailer both just announced the phaseout of single use plastics on a monumental scale. All cool stuff, for sure. So, how can you help?

As I’ve said many times before, companies aren’t evil — they’re just a little narrowly/singularly focused on dollars. But you have to have money — and your company does, too. Recently, I started looking around for different suppliers of stuff our company buys a lot of. Our company makes a line of organic, zero waste, and non-toxic personal care products. We buy a lot of this kind of stuff:

We use tins like this to sell sunscreen, lip balm, and other similar products. Of course, if they come in plastic wrap (individually), then are we truly zero waste? Finding some alternative providers who’ve been willing to send stuff with paper wrap has not been as difficult as I expected, though. (Turns out, companies want my companies’ business.) I’ve been able to leverage this to push back on our existing providers and make one very simple, yet very effective assertion.

I let them know, kindly, that we’re now incorporating plastic waste into our purchasing decisions. 

It makes financial sense, too — the more of this stuff my staff has to deal with, the more time they waste. One of the products we buy comes in a plastic bag (individually), with instructions inside each bag, the product itself, with both ends of the product wrapped in bubble wrap, and then two twist ties put on it. We managed to find a supplier who is giving us a similar enough product with one twist tie, paper wrap, and a paperboard box.

The proclamation above, though, is important — if I just switched companies, the old supplier would not know why. That’s a critical detail. They want to know why. They want to keep my business. Companies listen to customers, more so than any other of their stakeholders. So tell anyone you buy a lot of stuff from — cut the waste, or lose my business.

It doesn’t just have to be packaging, or plastic for that matter. The office I work from has two bathrooms. Both toilets have been leaking since I moved in. Last month, I let them know that if they’re not fixed by the time I have to decide to renew my lease, I’m out. Gives them plenty of time to get them fixed, and lets them know that waste is simply not okay.

Vote with your dollars. It’s effective. But only if you tell people why. 


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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur hellbent on making the world a better place for all its residents. After starting and selling two mission driven companies, Scott started a third and lost his shirt. After that, he bought a new shirt at Goodwill and started this media company and once it was making enough, he was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has, by the end of 2019, performed efficiency retrofits on more than 13,000 homes and small businesses, saving customers more than $3.3 million a year on their utilities. Because he's sadistic, he then started a zero waste, organic, locally made personal care line. Scott's also addicted to producing stuff and teaching people--he was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and Green Living Ideas, and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i.

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