Italy has historically been among Europe's top consumers of plastic bags, but not anymore. As of January 1, 2011, the Italian government has banned non-biodegradable plastics bags from shops and grocery stores.
Enter the controversy: this ban stands to have a positive environmental effect, but what does it mean for the plastics and packaging industries? There has been a backlash in Italy for fear that the ban will hurt the plastic film industry.
Yet the controversy is not just centered around Italy. Italy may be the most recent political body to ban plastic bags, but it's not the only one. In the U.S., cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Baltimore have banned or are considering banning plastic bags. It's only a matter of time before the idea catches on globally.
The first factor to consider is the impact on viewing the environment as important in business and industry ethics. Companies, especially industrial companies, now have to reckon with ethical implications of having products that are not environmentally friendly. Companies that do not jump on the environmentally friendly bandwagon will be left behind, and find their reputations sullied.
The second factor is realizing that environmentally friendly products will play a crucial role in business survival. Companies that provide environmentally friendly solutions will have a significant advantage in the future. "Environmentally friendly" has already entered the marketing lexicon, but it's much more than just a slogan. For many, it's a rallying cry for changes to the law to support their beliefs. Today, it's legislation on plastic bags. Next year, perhaps it's other packaging materials. And in the future, entire industrial markets will be forced to adapt. How is your company responding?
Third, industry must realize that before too long, sweeping solutions will emerge to environmental problems. Currently, environmentally friendly efforts focus on incremental improvements. Bit by bit, improvements and industry changes are being made. Soon, however, people will be ready to re-think their style of living and doing business in radical ways. Companies who follow their customers' new requirements and take advantage of these changes will have a head start.
Businesses who listen to these three key trends, indicated by the spread of plastic bag bans, will survive, whereas businesses whose models involve waste and pollution will face great challenges moving forwards. How is your business changing to become more environmentally friendly? Or is it not changing at all? Do you agree or disagree with our predictions?