Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Royal Wedding: one month on

Congrats Wills and Kate on your one month anniversary!

Click here to read my report for The Ethical Fashion Forum on ‘THE DRESS’. Thank you to designer Raishma, who created homeless girl Shozna’s beautiful papaya dress for the Royal Wedding and whom I interviewed for this piece. This article is not necessarily about the ethics of it, but more about the design and the fun of it, which is probably why it is available to the public and not just paying members this time!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

24 and The Box

On Sunday 22nd May 2011 at 5.23am I metamorphosed into Jack Bauer and, like him, I can most often be found running around (in a sweaty, yet stylish way) saving the world whilst time is ticking on. Unlike him, I do not take the ‘ends justify the means’ approach to my workings, nor am I burdened with attempts to thwart multiple terrorist plots. I do, however, apologise for the lack of blogging of late. I have been attending many sustainability conferences, lectures, panel and networking events, yet unfortunately have been too busy (and The Understatement Of The Year Award goes to, eh hem, me) to write it all down in a digestible and coherent structure.

Fear not and rest assured though, that the accounts of events and inherently absorbed knowledge are all stored up here (taps temple), which, whether I (or you) like it or not, will mean that my future blogs will be better informed, as my 24-year-old brain’s neurons begin to light up and make connections between the functionalities of entities working on becoming more sustainable, as well as the themes arising in challenges faced and solutions proposed. I do not claim that this will eventually result in some kind of eco-enlightenment, but I believe that through further understanding the complex and nebulous spirit of sustainability, one can start to formulate plans for a brighter future, that will work.

In joining this elite group of 24-year-old prodigies, destined for sustainability stardom, I have learnt many things, including that there are many improvements to be made (not least of which is in my modesty- see the first part of this sentence!), not only in myself, but in my group of friends and family, my company, clients, corporations, governments and throughout global human society. This is not necessarily something to be viewed negatively, but rather a chance to celebrate the positive things that have been achieved whilst recognising that there will always be that little bit extra that can be done to make something better, fairer, cleaner, more efficient, nicer, more beautiful, more fun... of course, I am not talking about perfection: there is a point at which you must stop and accept that it is fine the way it is. Striving towards ‘being the best that one can be’ is a great experience in itself.

To illustrate my point, I use Marks and Spencer Plan A. I have written about this before and it is one of the most quoted examples of best-practice in corporate sustainability, yet, as ever, M&S are still on their journey towards being the best that they can be. This was made perfectly and painfully apparent when I received a gift through the post for my 24th birthday from M&S ‘Experiences’. Thank you to the dear sender for the lovely surprise of ‘Tea For Two’ vouchers- this person knows me too well and I shall enjoy the treat very much!

No thanks, however, to the packaging technologists and Plan A instigators for the way this piece of card came to me. I kid you not: this ~10cm by ~12cm card voucher was encased in a ~13cm (L), ~11cm (W), ~2cm (D) cardboard box with all sorts of lovely images on it, of, as you’d imagine, tea and cakes. This cardboard box was in a much larger cardboard box of ~30cm (L), 20cm (W) and ~15cm (D) and in that larger box surrounding the smaller box were 2 very large crumpled brown paper sheets, whose purpose I can only assume was to ensure that the smaller box within (holding only the card voucher) did not get ‘squished’.

Now, on this larger box were a number of printed messages including: ‘Plan A: Doing The Right Thing’, ‘Cardboard recycled from our stores and warehouses has helped to make this box-and it can be recycled too’ as well as ‘This box has been made by Remploy, supporting disabled people in the workplace’. This is a very special, ethical box, which gives a warm, fuzzy feeling when holding it, but in my opinion is marketing gone mad! For the sake of getting the Plan A message out there (which can be done in a number of less wasteful ways) they have resorted to sending, what is effectively a piece of card (which, as it happens, requires me to go to their website to register online so probably could have been sent electronically much more easily) in a completely unnecessary cocoon of preposterous paper and supererogatory cardboard.

I recognise, M&S, that you are in now probably approaching the middle chapters of your sustainability story, but what needs to happen here is a joined-up re-thinking of systems and a harmonisation of business strategies. Avoiding this needless packaging (even if it can be recycled) will effectively save time and money, so at least the procurement department will be happy. Sending this gift as an online link, with a large all-singing and all-dancing Plan A message about saving and reducing resources, will keep marketing, and everyone, happy.

So that, in a nutshell, or rather, in a silly box, is just one of my more excellent 24-year-old thoughts (I still need to work on that modesty)...