Whiplash Team. June 2018.

In the transition towards a more sustainable economy and society, the need to preserve and cultivate the planet’s renewable resources requires commitment and action from all social actors. From the business sector, the implementation of strategies to progressively replace the use of unsustainable materials with renewable ones such as wood is a way to make tangible the social and ethical purpose of the organization through its products.

Next week there will be no more free plastic bags in Spain. The measure puts on the table, once again, the debate about the relationship we have with the Planet and the pitfalls posed by the commitment to move towards a society that makes a more intelligent use of Nature’s resources. For the environment, the impact of plastic bags –whose average use is 12 minutes and take about 500 years to degrade–, is devastating. The plastic is, without a doubt, one of the daily use materials that threaten our own survival, but not the only one.

Despite the entry into force of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, on January 1st, 2016, progress towards replacing non-degradable materials with biodegradable materials is slow. One of the main objectives in the Agenda is to achieve responsible production and consumption, something that implies the cultivation and proper management of renewable resources such as forestry. However, at least within the EU and, even though the European Commission has adhered to the objectives of the Agenda, there are still no common policies for the development of sustainable plantations that can guarantee a future supply of forest products or the sustainable production of bioenergy fuels.

This substitution does not mean whatsoever banning fossil raw materials, such as oil and its derivatives (plastic among them), but to use as much as possible renewable raw materials of biological origin. Clean energies, such as wind or solar, are illustrative alternatives to fossil fuels. In Spain, where solar radiation is higher than in the rest of the continent, according to data from the Spanish Electricity Network, in 2017 only 33.7% of the energy produced in the country came from renewable sources (sun, water, wind, biomass). In recent years, growth in the generation of solar energy in the EU has been weighed by taxes on self-consumption but the recent measure of the European Parliament eliminating such impositions is a step forward.

In other sectors, such as construction, for example, wood is an efficient option to brick or steel, not only as a decorative element but also as a structural element, thanks to innovation in the development of new sustainable materials. In the case of industry, there are non-polluting alternatives to replace plastic in the manufacture of bags and packaging elements, among others, cloth, paper, or cardboard, all derived from organic raw materials.

Consumers begin to be aware of this and assume their responsibility by changing their consumption habits to align with the common purpose of preserving the planet: they buy local products to reduce their carbon footprint, they use cloth or recyclable bags for their shopping and look if the packaging is made with recycled products, just to cite everyday habits. The “disposable” culture is slowly receding, giving way to a revival of practices and habits friendlier to the environment.

At present, the consolidation of new social paradigms such as responsible consumption, which monitors and demands from brands an ethical behavior with people and the planet, forces companies to incorporate social and environmental responsibility into their DNA. Moving it operationally to its strategies of design, production and innovation in products and materials, adapting them to a more sustainable society and, on the way, reinforcing the brand’s reputation, is a task for the organizations’ top management on a global scale, who must assume the commitment to sustainability as their own.