At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Coca-Cola made the sort of announcement that will have Earth lovers’ heads spinning. The beverage giant said that no, it will not stop selling its drinks in single-use plastic bottles because that’s what customers want in their heart of hearts.
“Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers,” Coca-Cola’s head of sustainability Bea Perez told the BBC.
The company reportedly produces approximately 3 million tons of plastic packaging a year, earning the title of biggest polluter in a “global audit of plastic waste,” according to a study by Break Free from Plastic. In an industry where image is everything, this is definitely not a good look for the brand. But, in spite of this move, Perez insisted Coca-Cola plans to be “part of the solution.” It’s going to do that by using at least 50 percent recycled material in its packaging by 2030, and will partner with NGOs around the world to help improve collection.
You may be wondering why Coca-Cola won’t make a complete shift to glass bottles now, considering many of its existing drinks are packaged that way. Perez had an answer for that. By her logic, using only aluminum and glass containers could push up the firm’s carbon footprint.
“As we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are,” she said. “They will change with us.”
Whether a corporation should do the right thing immediately or take its cues from customers is an argument for another forum. What is clear, however, is that environmental policy is an emotive subject for many, especially millennials. Directing customers toward USA-made, biodegradable and eco-friendly items for their projects is a priority this year for Devin O’Brien, partner at St. Charles, Illinois-based O’Brien Corporation and Print+Promo Under 40 honoree. Expanding on that notion, Tony Hill-McShepard, enterprise sales executive at Cleveland-based Hotcards and fellow Under 40 nominee, believes the push for “living healthier and not damaging the Earth” will result in new electronics, reusable products and digital print marketing—all in need of branding.
Our 2020 Under 40 feature is a welcome respite from the grim news cycle. These rising stars are trying to carry the legacy of those great printers, salespeople and creators before them—respectfully and enthusiastically—while pausing to address ethical dilemmas along the way. They have great stories to tell and we’re pleased to share them with you this month. Check out our Under 40 profiles here.