Friday, April 16, 2010

What a waste!

Every so often, I come across absolutely wasteful packaging. Here is another example from my own market. I challenge you to find similar examples from your market.

The product is an aluminium can of the most basic brand of instant coffee you can buy in Israel, on offer with a bar of chocolate with hazelnuts. The offer is the two products packaged together, presumably at a discounted price (I didn't compare prices). Here is how it looks:

See all that cardboard ? What a waste? Consider the design costs, printing costs and inks, the additional bulk in shipment of this product, the pallets, the handling, the additional space on  the supermarket shelf.  I would even go as far as to suggest that by taking all that extra cost out of the supply chain, they could probably give two bars of chocolate away for free. How will the consumer dispose of that corrugated cardboard ? Straight to the household garbage bin, and off to landfill with the weekly garbage collection. How much extra cost is in that process given the hundreds of thousands of units this manufacturer will sell, I assume? How many unnessary tons of waste ? I am not an engineer, nor a marketeer, but it  bothers me when I see such uncalled for waste in our system. Climate change or otherwise, it's just thoughtless abuse of our environment.

I am sure the Company involved is not intentionally behaving irresponsibly. In fact, this company, the Strauss Group, is one of the leading and most respectable Israeli-based global food Companies, practising corporate social responsibility, accountability and transparency. The Company has issued two high-quality Sustainability Reports and is a model for our market. The Packaging Development Manager quoted in the 2008 report , Environment Section,  states that impact on the environment is a "paramount value and critical factor" in their approach to design. So, what went wrong ?

Once again, I point to the massive challenge of truly embedding sustainability in the business, and ensuring all employees are active in influencing process for improved sustainability, however small they may be, at every stage in every process. How come it takes me, albeit an aware and conscious consumer, to notice this? How come the hundreds of employees involved in the design, manufacture, delivery and shipping of this product don't come up with a more environmentally friendly alternative, before it hits the shelves ? Someone within the system needs to speak up. Instead, in examples like these, we can only assume silent complicity or total lack of awareness on the part of everyone who designs, authorizes, handles and delivers this product. 

The coffee and the chocolate are great, by the way. :)

elaine cohen is the CEO of Beyond Business, a leading social and environmental consulting and reporting firm. Visit our website at

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