Are Companies Concerned about the Environment or just the Bottom Line?

I recently picked up food for my son and me from a fast casual restaurant.  As I was walking out the door with the bag, which was not over packed or very heavy, the bag broke.  My food went everywhere.  The manager came out, apologized, and said they’d remake the food.  She then said, “Ever since we switched to these new bags, we’ve had a lot of issues.”  Perhaps this gives you too much insight into the life I lead but a complaint about packaging excited me.  I had to engage her in a conversation.

Me:  “Why did they switch bags?”

Manager:  “They told us they’re more environmentally friendly but I think they just wanted to save money.  They’re thinner.”

Me: “So they down gauged the material.”  (One of the few technical terms used in packaging that I actually understand.)

Manager: “What does that mean?  Did they make them thinner?”

Me: “Exactly.”

Manager: “Well, it sucks.  My bonus is partially based on food waste.  I can tell you it’s gone up because these stupid bags break.”

They remade my order, double bagged it, and I was off.  As I drove away, I thought about the purchasing manager whose bonus is based on saving money on packaging.  I thought about the sustainability manager whose bonus is based on creating a report that says the company used less packaging.  I also thought about the poor manager that has to remake orders, hear about food waste increases in her performance review, and deal with irate customers because bags break. 

Like most people in my industry, I care about the environment.  We need sustainable raw materials to have an industry.  We have a responsibility to protect the environment.  I also recognize companies do not want to pay more for what they perceive as a non-value add item (packaging).  If I had a nickel for every time I hear a customer say, “We want something environmentally friendly but it has to cost the same or even less,” I would be able to get my wife a private plane so she could fly around like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Al Gore and tell people how important the environment is.  The reality is sustainability requires an investment.  Thinner does not always mean less expensive. 

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