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Stop Claiming "sustainable" in every direction...

organic tobacco plant doesn't mean safe
sustainability misleading

Usually, I am supporting every step, even little one, in favour of sustainability. But these days, we tend to use the word “sustainable” very loosely and largely. I am concerned to not overused it to the point of becoming a just a marketing tool for selling products for manufacturers and retailers.

Everything seems now to be “sustainable” or “natural”, but this is misleading in term of benefit for humans or environment!

Look at this picture above: Tobacco plant is natural, some comes from organic agriculture without pesticides or additives and are ethically sourced, but it doesn’t mean that cigarette doesn’t kill anymore!

Be safe, is more complicated than say “natural” – a lot of dangerous substance are natural, arsenic is naturally present in soil, formaldehyde is naturally present in fruit & vegetable. I love wine, but this is not because a wine is organic or natural that the negative effect of alcohol on my health will be avoided… the Basic principle of toxicology is: the dose makes the poison.

Be healthy is more than saying “with a positive ingredient” (eg. With vitamin E) or “without a negative ingredient” (eg. Bisphenol A free).

Be sustainable is more than saying “Organic”, especially when ingredients or products have to be transported several thousand km in a heavy packaging.

In the same way, to be sustainable or environmentally responsible is more than say #recyclable or #biodegradable for a raw material used in packaging. In addition, it doesn’t mean that “#renewable” is automatically better than fossil. It depends!

The superficial communication we saw everywhere for everything begins to be ambiguous due to insincere display of concern by some stakeholders.

We should stop these claims and be more rational. Why? Because, otherwise this approximative communication could lead green bashing and consumers being more reluctant regarding brand communication.

What should be done?

  • First of all, the product whole supply chain has to be analysed. Considering only one part as for ex. transport, or end-of-life could lead wrong decision.

  • Use of agricultural by-products or co-products have to be considered if not diverted from a current beneficial use (eg bagasse use for electricity production or for packaging)

  • Look at the replacement impact of one current material by another (eg replace plastic by paper) and its impact on the material consumption: tree-paper fibers and protection of the product. In many case, wasted a product is worst than a packaging waste in term of carbon footprint.

  • Design for reuse/refill when useful, remove always unnecessary packaging.

Waste mismanagement, over-engineered & unecessary packaging are the problem, not plastic. New recycling technologies are developing, having right packaging design is up to us.

Let’s be humanly sustainable and educate people with a credible communication – Packaging must be Safe for Humans & our Planet and Effective for the Product.
Explain why!

It is worth explaining the functions of what we use: For example , “we use this raw material because it preserve product during [x] weeks, it protects it against microbiological contamination, UV deterioration…, it allows safe transport from [x to y] , it enables a communication of an ingredient list, origin & traceability , it is recyclable within the [Paper, Polyethylene, PET , etc ….]streams if infrastructure exists at your place of use, alternatively it can be incinerated with energy recovery reducing use of fossil fuel for burning our household waste, If you dispose it in the nature, it will not be recovery …and pollute our planet ”

Having the right packaging is a complex matter which needs expertise.


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