Let Sustainability Sinners Repent…
There’s been a small kerfuffle in the sustainability world over the news that Staples is considering lifting its ban on Asia, Pulp & Paper (APP) following the latter’s conversion to sustainable production of wood pulp after being boycotted by virtually every major brand over its clearance of virgin rainforest in SE Asia. Despite being an obscure primary producer, APP had become one of the great corporate pantomime villains of our time.
I’m not a religious man – in fact I come from a long line of staunch atheists – so it was strange that a Biblical quotation should immediately spring to mind when reading this story:
I say to you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:7*)
Why? To encourage change, we need carrots to compliment the stick of boycott. Without the carrot, any company in APP’s position is likely to put on a tin hat and try and find other, less obvious, paths to market for its products. The rainforest destruction continues. Nobody wins – except the holier than thou.
The greatest corporate reputation recovery must be the story of Nike. Go back 10-15 years and the sportswear company’s reputation was horribly tainted with allegations of sweatshops and child labour in its supply chain. Now it is seen as a paragon of sustainability – champions of Creating Shared Value, rated one of the best companies for tackling climate change, even recycling their trainers into children’s playground surfaces amongst the values. Like Apple, it is now Nike which publicises issues in its own supply chain, not the pressure groups.
I’d much rather have ‘good’ Nike than ‘evil’ Nike, ‘good’ Apple than ‘bad’ Apple, ‘good’ APP than ‘evil’ APP – so we have to provide a redemption pathway for sustainability sinners to become reborn as sustainability saints.
* Yes, I had to look that up.