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What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability means, literally, that something can be maintained. A business can (and should!) be economically sustainable. However, sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean that it operates ethically. So when we refer to sustainability in business, I think it’s better to talk about the social and/or environmental responsibility of a company, and not just its “sustainability”.
Use the right words
Using the right words here is essential because clear communication is essential when we are talking about environmental and social responsibility. The language we use must never be ambiguous. Let’s avoid the politicians’ favorite word: “clearly”. Would you agree that the more they use the word, the less clear their message usually is?!
Do your research
I first researched the topic of environmental and social responsibility in the textile supply chain in 2018. At that time, I was writing a report called “How ethical is your brand?” for Textiles Intelligence. During my research, I spoke with Gus Bartholomew of SupplyCompass. He shared some great insight and, inadvertently, set me on a voyage of discovery which has now become the focus of my working life.
Learn from the experts
(David Attenborough and the BBC could probably claim some credit for my interest in protecting the natural world and in environmental and social responsibility, too, with their spectacular television documentaries!)
Recently, I have been learning about waste management and recycling. Specifically, I wanted to know what happens to our PET plastic waste, from plastic water bottles. I was surprised and delighted to learn that, in my area of the UK at least, most of what is collected from household waste bins is recycled.
Take your litter home!
However, I was dismayed at what else I learned. Apparently most of the waste collected from litter bins around the town centers, streets, and parks cannot be recycled due to contamination – even if separate recycling bins are provided. From personal experience, if I buy a plastic water bottle, it’s usually because I’m out and about for the day. And if I’m out for the day, it’s also likely that I will dispose of my waste in the litter bins provided. I had no idea that if I didn’t take my recyclable waste home, it wouldn’t be recycled. That was a revelation, and it shocked me!
Avoid adding recyclable materials to landfill
In the future, I will make sure that I take my plastic waste home. That way, I can dispose of it in my household waste, and I’ll be sure that it will be recycled into something useful in the future. But this experience has made me wonder how many people, like me, simply didn’t know the facts – or hadn’t really thought about it – and what a difference we could make to the environment if only we knew!
So, what does sustainability mean to you?
Have you had similar experiences? Please share in the comments below.