Like most people, I want to be more eco-friendly but it’s not always obvious how small changes can make a big difference. As a marketer, I never realised how much we encouraged the use of plastics in our business and the wider channel without even realising. But I certainly never expected a simple question from my niece would be the catalyst for change within our business and the channel…
“Are these eco-friendly?”
It all started one night at a family gathering after an industry awards evening. I gave the usual bag of giveaways to my niece, thinking she would be pleased to see them and make up for missing dinner. But instead of a smile, she frowned and asked: “Are these eco-friendly?” She had learnt about sustainability and being eco-friendly at school and was trying to apply it to everything around her.
Time to think differently
As part of the CSR team at Westcon-Comstor Middle East, I’ve participated in a number of sustainability initiatives, including ‘No single-use plastic cup’ to educate colleagues and encourage them to stop using the single-use plastics that cause so much pollution.
The world produces over 380 million tons of plastic every year – up to 50% of it for single use – and it’s estimated that more than 10 million tons are dumped into our oceans every year. That’s one truckload every minute!
Helping to save our seas
I’d always been keen to take part in these initiatives, but until now I’d never realised how I was also encouraging the use of plastics and other non-biodegradable materials with our corporate giveaways. So I talked to my team and they were keen to change too, starting with re-evaluating our corporate giveaways.
Looking for giveaways made from sustainable materials, we found Ocean Bottle. For each reusable bottle sold, they fund the collection of 1,000 ocean-bound plastic bottles by people living in coastal communities, who can exchange them for money to improve their lives. So far, the Ocean Bottle initiative has collected a massive 3 million kgs of plastic.
Putting plans into practice
Inspired by this initiative, we decided to give away only sustainable and eco-friendly items at last years’ GITEX, the Gulf’s largest IT exhibition. This meant items such as water bottles made from straw, bamboo pens and recycled cork diaries with a note – on recycled paper – explaining our decision and encouraging partners to take similar steps to help save the environment. To cut down on printing, we created QR codes for our datasheets and digital portals.
We were keen to see the reaction of our colleagues, partners and vendors. We needn’t have worried – the feedback was overwhelmingly positive as news of our sustainable giveaways spread. Several partners even asked us where we got them, looking to source sustainable giveaways for their own events.
Creating a more sustainable channel
Initiatives like this show how we take sustainability seriously as a business. They also start a wider conversation about meaningful change in the channel. I’m humbled to see how a simple question from my niece could start a small movement with big potential – the potential to build a more sustainable channel.
We are asking our partners to join us in a simple pledge: to end single-use giveaways made from unsustainable materials and unethical supply chains. All it takes is one small step to bring about big change.