Celebrating Sir David Attenborough
We are delighted to launch our Sustainability Pioneers series with the celebration of one of the greatest pioneers of all time.
As one of our greatest influencers and pioneers of our natural world approaches his 95th birthday on the 8th May, I would like to commend this great man on the influence he has had on my life and the packaging industry. There are few influencers who appeal to every generation, but this man has no generational limits. He is on my list of people I would love to have dinner with alongside the late, great Nelson Mandela and the comedy genius Billy Connolly. I am also proud to say my 7 year old son is obsessed with documentaries on nature, in his eyes they are equal to Minecraft and FIFA and his career aspirations flit between being a professional football player and being Sir David Attenborough.
I regularly refer to the ‘Blue Planet II’ effect on packaging, but I am doing an injustice, this great man has been educating the public for decades. I believe his greatest skill is connecting with people emotionally through his infectious love of our beautiful planet. Although many of his documentaries illustrate the wonderful beauty of our natural world, they have also communicated the damage we are doing to it and the need for change.
I have always been an advocate of sustainability however I remember vividly watching Blue Planet II and knowing that it would be the turning point for packaging. As millions of us watched a pilot whale carrying her dead calf across the ocean for days, killed by the mother’s milk which was toxic due to plastic pollution. Then there were the albatross parents feeding plastic to their chicks. This was the Creating a catalyst for change.
Overnight, plastic packaging became the most hated item in our possession and after the programme had aired, there was a 100% increase in online searches for ‘dangers of plastic in the ocean’ and a 50% increase in searches for ‘plastic recycling’.
Thankfully, the public’s concern around the issues raised by Sir David Attenborough has been sustained and, as we all know, the voice of the public can has driven change. Not only did this lead to a change in consumer behaviour but public pressure forced the hands of brands and retailers to pledge to plastic waste reduction and governments to commit to legislative reform. Unbelievably there were 162,000 individual responses to the UK Treasury’s call for evidence on plastic pollution in 2018, the largest response from the public ever received on any issue. Public pressure has also led to government action at a European level, with a ban of many single-use plastics including cotton buds, straws, plates, cutlery, beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics, and expanded polystyrene food containers and beverage cups.
Arguably the latest David Attenborough documentary is even more emotive than Blue Planet II, A Life on Our Planet is a must see on Netflix and many are predicting this to be a catalyst for change in the British public’s action against climate change. David Attenborough calls this his ‘witness statement’ and ‘vision of the future’. It follows the significant loss of wilderness due to deforestation and overfishing over the course of his lifetime,and portrays a disturbing picture of the future based on the self-destruction we as human beings are creating. For me this is the perfect balance with equal levels of shock and self-horror, counteracted by hope and motivation for change, and concluding with inspiration to ‘act now to put it right’. This documentary really drives home that the world is our collective responsibility, and we have the power to live more sustainably no matter if we are CEOs, activists, packaging specialists, consumers or young children.
This great man and true pioneer has changed my view of packaging, not only has he influenced and accelerated change but he has inspired me to have as big an influence as possible. I’m sure he would never regard himself as a pioneer of sustainability but maybe a pioneer to sustain the beautiful world we are gifted for a short time. So my response to ‘act now to put it right’ is two-fold, I will continue to do all I can as a person and as a parent to instil and inspire change close to home but I will also promise to challenge on a professional level. Gone are the days of pandering to unsustainable client demands, I will challenge and we, as a team, will always promote a responsible vision, reducing waste and providing a packaging vision fit for the future – a sustainable future.
Happy Birthday Sir David, you are a legend and an inspiration!
About the author
Gillian Garside-Wight - Sustainability Partner
Gillian leads our consulting offer, with over 20 years’ experience in the print and packaging industry, strategically developing packaging strategies, roadmaps and packaging solutions to meet the needs of clients and consumers / end users. She has worked with a number of global retailers and household brands on projects spanning sustainability and innovation to supply chain optimisation. With a real passions for sustainable packaging, her quest is to inform and drive a circular economy wherever possible while complementing creativity and technical functionality but never forgetting commercial requirements.
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