Is this Paradise Lost? – The need to act sustainably now or never.

BY Natasha Samek – Head of Strategy, Butterfly Cannon

Government directives. Child activists. Nonagenarian naturalists / national treasures. Symbolic clocks and even Royal blessings. The implication that we are on the brink of an ecological disaster is never far from our awareness. It permeates how we think, behave, what we’re buying and what we’re engaging with. Sustainability is part of our culture. And the dominating narrative is the need to act now to protect our planet and to protect ourselves.

The pandemic paradox

No one predicted or prepared for the deadly global virus that within weeks, totally disrupted life as we knew it. The long-term narrative around sustainability was quickly replaced by short-term survival instincts. And the environment suffered as hygiene paranoia pushed us back into the reassuring arms of disposables. Plastic production soared, previous bans on single-use plastic straws and stirrers were over-turned and coffee shops refused to accept reusable cups.

But the pandemic also serves as a sinister reminder of the fragility of our planet. Yet another warning – alongside record-breaking storms, devastating bush fires and deadly droughts – that the planet will bite back if we don’t act in its long-term interests.

Analysis paralysis

With no plan(et) B to rely on, one thing we can all agree on is that inaction is not an option. But what to do amid these seemingly contradicting mindsets and needs is less clear cut. Our pre-pandemic reference points for navigating the ecological landscape have been devastated and nothing is recognisable or definitive anymore. Should we act for short-term survival or longer-term sustainability? How can we do both? 

These questions are particularly pertinent for those of us responsible for creating packaging – an aspect of everyone’s lives that has a significant role in protecting what we consume from environmental factors, but also – if not created consciously – with negative long-term effects on our planet.

Conscious Design

As an Agency specialising in aspirational brands, creating sustainable packaging that still delivers the sensorial, tactile and culturally relevant experiences expected by aspirational consumers, we are only too aware of the complexities of creating packaging that ‘ticks all the boxes.’

Conscious DesignTM was an approach driven out of necessity – to help ourselves and our clients navigate the minefield of the ecological design landscape whilst still delivering distinctive brand experiences.

Driven by a specialist in-house team, led by our sustainability manager, Butterfly Cannon’s Conscious Design process brings clarity to the eco-confusion with a simple step-by-step process. Starting by clarifying the brand’s purpose, defining their sustainability goals and understanding the context within which they are operating, we use our proprietary Climatic TableTM to help brands prioritise which aspects of sustainability they should focus on – now and in the future – and develop a roadmap and creative design solutions to help them get there. This may stretch from using by-products from the supply chain within the packaging to reorganising and optimising packaging portfolios.

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The power of NOW

The advice we give to all our clients is that they don’t need to have the perfect solution before acting. Find how you can make the biggest difference. Acknowledge the complexity. Set clear goals and create a clear roadmap to get there – even if this means admitting you are simply starting your journey. And don’t forget the role of consumers to help make it happen – getting them involved is not only critical but, done in the right way, is also an opportunity to bring them closer to your brand. 

After all, as Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing’.

BY Natasha Samek – Head of Strategy, Butterfly Cannon

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