The Blue Planet effect and momentum from the recent War on Plastics have kept plastics high on the public agenda, with what Ocado’s head of CR Suzanne Westlake describes as “bordering on a militant approach”. This can prove challenging for smaller businesses and start-ups wanting to do the right thing and not have their packaging be negatively perceived by their potential customers.

In a recent Keep Britain Tidy and Brita UK survey, 46% of SME’s had not taken any action. Although, 76% said they were motivated by the environmental impacts of single-use plastics.

This coincides with research by the Sustainable Sidekicks, in which 90% of the respondents said their organisation would be motivated to take action on single-use plastics and waste because it was the right thing to do. Respondents ranked tackling single-use plastics and engaging colleagues in plastics or waste reduction initiatives as being most important.

In response to this, the sustainability and behaviour change consultancy has set out to create an online course to do all of those things.‘Tackling Single-use Plastics in the Workplace’ launches at the end of September.

The content is being designed for SME’s, office managers and green champions to unravel the complexities of plastics and plastic alternatives, provide practical tools and guidance to reduce single-use in the supply chain and confidently talk to customers about packaging choices- even if this is plastic in the end. “there is a lot of confusion about plastics and alternative materials, which can be overwhelming when SME’s want to do the right thing” explains Livvy Drake, Head Sustainable Sidekick. “We want to unpack the confusion and to allow businesses to think differently about their material choices”.

The weekly lessons will be full of case studies and interviews of businesses who have already taken action including some inspiring SME’s and start-ups who have developed alternative packaging solutions for their products. When SME House of Apres brought their sparkling brut beer, Duette, to market the only option was bubble wrap or polystyrene to transport their bottles; which they decided they couldn’t use and knew it would be met with negative feedback from their customers. So they worked with Flexi-hex, who made plastic-free surfboard packaging to assist in their process for establishing a cardboard solution for bottle postage and with UKMail to negate the need for plastic bags in the post.

Now the packaging is part of their customer experience and intrinsic to their brand, “It may have cost more initially and was a journey to resolve the challenges but it now makes our product concept stronger” says Nick Rees and Jamie Gatley.

Another interviewee is start-up Manic Veganic, who’s paper origami wraps achieved a finalist award at the recent Soil Association Boom Award awards, in the packaging category. The founder Errol, was horrified to discover the complexities of the multi-material food pouches they were about to invest in for their vegan protein powders.

Errol says “after aiming to create a brand that was to minimise impacts on animals, I couldn’t then have a packaging that could only go in the general waste bin” Other case studies include products made from ocean plastic and UK kerbside recycled plastic, sugarcane and eucalyptus.

Sustainable Sidekicks is now an IOEE accredited academy, so participants can earn CPD points. As Sarah Trouten, Chief Executive of the IOEE, says “The need for businesses to be sustainable has never been greater and we are extremely proud to be working closely with IOEE Academy Sustainable Sidekicks to provide accreditation for this innovative and informative programme”.

The online course ‘Tackling Single-use Plastics in the Workplace launches on 30th September, with early bird bonuses and discounts to be snapped up now. https://courses.sustainablesidekicks.com. In their support of fellow SME’s and IOEE members the Sustainable Sidekicks are offering a further 20% off, quote: IOEE20.

The need for businesses to be sustainable has never been greater!

You can read more articles from this quarter’s Think Enterprise here: http://bit.ly/2nXcKgn