2018 saw 3.4 million people from 177 countries sign up for Plastic Free July.
Lots of conscious consumers reached out to brands about reducing their plastic packaging. However, if done wrong, those messages may never make it to the right people, or they may be ignored altogether.
Here are three common mistakes we’ve seen, and what to do instead. After all, Plastic Free July is just the beginning!
(Prefer listening to reading? Sabine had a chat with Sian Conway on the Ethical Hour Changemaker Chats podcast.)
This may be controversial, but hear us out…
We must reduce the amount of plastic waste that’s floating around on our planet — from ocean plastic to birds’ nests and forests. We also need to reduce our dependency on petroleum, which we’re using to power our vehicles and engines, heat our homes and make products… such as plastic.
It may be the easiest way to get the word out, create awareness and win likes and followers… but it’s not the most productive way to challenge a brand. Eptica found that in 2017, only 34% of tweets to UK customer service teams got a satisfactory response. And even if you do get a reply, the advisor sending it is usually not in a position to make any changes to how the company operates. So if you’ve been tweeting a brand and got no (or no good) response, you’re not alone.
Photo of tweet used with permission of user.
There are lots of organisations fighting the good fight and drawing our attention to the problems caused by plastic. Some of them offer petitions, template letters and pre-written material that you just need to sign and send off to the company you want to challenge.
As someone who’s seen what it’s like when a brand gets thousands of identical complaint emails in a single day, Sabine knows from first-hand experience that this is not the most successful way to change things.
Yes, it puts pressure on the company…
But in many companies, the customer service team is left to deal with this.
And since this kind of message distracts customer service from their real task (helping a customer with their question) — and there is no personal investment into the template message — don’t be surprised if you never hear back, or get a template at best.
Awareness dates are a great start, but we mustn’t educate companies to brace themselves for a month of ‘noise’ before ‘everything goes back to normal’ in August.
If we want to break our dependency on disposable, un-recycled plastic, we need to keep the conversation going beyond July.
Feel free to share your conversations about reducing plastics with us, whether they worked well or not. And if you’re a brand struggling to find the right way to respond, we’d love to hear from you too.