Updated: Sep 28, 2022
Should companies producing sustainable materials be responsible for the public's interpretation of green marketing strategies?
Sustainable Materials and their responsibilities
Whether you believe in climate change or not, there are aspects of the harm we do to the planet that is undeniable and can be seen now across the globe, from plastic washing up on the arctic coasts to inevitable oil spills as a result of our dependency on petroleum.
With a lot of our new generations born into this world without seemingly much change to harmful processes and systems we rely on, it's not hard to see why desperation is a common feeling when thinking about the future of our planet.
As more and more people, businesses and countries rally behind creating positive change and solutions to our problem, we have rightly started to see a boom of new industries creating sustainable solutions, but there’s an underlying problem.
Search popularity of the term 'sustainable' between 1950 to 2019 .
Now you’re probably thinking, what could possibly be wrong with a growing trend of sustainable materials and alternatives? Well, when you mix a new and rarely understood industry with the desperation and urge to create and buy solutions now, it sometimes creates an insidious consequence – false hope.
More specifically, this false hope is created from poor and manipulative marketing campaigns or the lack of transparency about their saviour material, designed to entice you in with their seemingly ‘too good to be true’ properties - but when you dig deeper, you can see the same problems that come from the harmful industries we try to move away from.
Let’s take an example, you start with a raw material that is completely sustainable to create/ harvest – that material would have all the ‘positive properties’ of what is claimed and advertised to consumers, written into a story of how their production system does less harm (pay attention to the ‘less’, not zero harm). But between the point of its sustainable practices to when you have the final finished material/ product, there is a missing part of the story that the consumer rarely sees.
Because of reasons such as Intellectual Property or the secrecy that industries usually operate within to keep an edge over competitors, they rarely seek to create a transparent relationship with consumers, and behind that curtain some businesses cut corners.
Not what is looks like from the outside?
Sustainable material properties are often a lot further behind than current industry standards and there can sometimes be a large gap in technology to overcome (bear in mind that usually the comparison is polymer-based vs an industry that has really only been around for the past 15 years).
Driven by the pressure from investors, the market or just the race against climate change, the intentions of producing fully sustainable and harmless materials are compromised and methods to increase the properties of the material using harmful but reliable methods of treatment are often applied to the once harmless product.
You might argue with me that at least we are moving forward in the right direction, and I agree that we need to be doing so, but by purchasing ‘sustainable’ materials that ultimately end up in the same landfill sites that the plastics and harmful materials end up stockpiling, we get a false hope of creating positive change. The definition of sustainable within our environment is using methods that do not harm the environment so that natural resources are still available in the future, and a material that will only just end up at landfill isn’t a sustainable one.
Consumers, now more than ever, need to be demanding proof for claims made towards a sustainable material. When you hear terms like ‘green chemistry’, ‘Biofabricated’, ‘Bioinspired’ and ‘biobased’, be aware of what dark secrets might be hidden behind it - remember a business’s interpretation of these terms might not be what your interpretation is! Question materials and processes that seem too good to be true, its completely in your right to know what you’re buying.
But within all that doom, there are companies that are truly pushing forwards with harmless materials, done not for the profit line and investors pockets but more so that we can enjoy the beauty of this planet in this modern day and age.
For us we rely on our core ethic – if it does more damage to do it, than to not, then don’t do it – it should be us humans compromising on our choices of our lavish lifestyles, not compromising ecosystems for the sake of luxury.
Thank you for your time!
Co founder & Fungal Biomaterials Specialist @ Osmose Studio