October 7, 2020
Self-described as the fastest talking southern woman you’ll ever meet, Susanne Shelton helped jump-start the first day of Virtual SPC Advance with compelling calls to action. Shelton’s plenary presentation asked companies “What do you stand for?”, dispelling the myth that business and politics do not mix.
Shelton set the groundwork by discussing recent polling the Shelton Group did surrounding how environmental concerns and worry have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, concerns about climate change and plastic pollution have fallen, while concerns about disease and the failing economy came to the forefront. Despite the dropoff, Shelton and her team remain optimistic that environmental issues will continue to be at the forefront of Americans’ minds. Citing the 2008 financial crisis as an example, the awareness surrounding environmental issues skyrocketed in the years following. In this case, if history repeats itself, climate change and plastic pollution concerns will return with a fervor once concerns about the global pandemic recede.
First Call to Action – If you don’t hear about it, you don’t know about it
Overall, respondents of the Shelton Group recent polling noted hearing less and less about plastic bag bans or seeing retailers and brands take action to reduce plastic waste. Shelton urged the audience to take action in this space. Keeping these topics in the headlines and asking businesses to demonstrate the behavior they want their consumers to exhibit.
Second Call to Action – Double down & dig in
Shelton states that now is the time to have a purpose, dig into it, and stand for something. Echoing Andrew Winton’s previous remarks in his opening keynote address, Shelton argues the trust in business is increasing and societal changes are happening almost overnight. There is no better time than the present to take action. Demonstrate to your consumers that your business is actively fighting the problem, leading with your expertise, and maintaining your authenticity.
Third Call to Action – We all know you’re lobbying, so talk about it!
Sharing your intentions and beliefs with consumers is becoming normalized, consumers are demanding transparency and Shelton asserts that consumers are carefully observing businesses and their responses to crises. While it might seem counterintuitive to open up about your lobbying efforts, Shelton recommends now is the time for change. Talk openly about your lobbying efforts, educate consumers on what you are advocating for and lean into issues that affect not just your business, but your people too.
Altogether, the single biggest positive action businesses can do right now is figure out what they stand for and demonstrate it. When it comes to the sustainable packaging world, bold action, vocal advocacy, and transparent strategy will show consumers that you are here to participate in systemic change for good. While the burden of plastic pollution and climate change may seem overshadowed by a global pandemic and economic downturn, we are still hearing that call to action. Your company can choose to ignore it, or listen to it and be leaders in times of crisis, whether environmental or not.