Like a good lot of you, I watched Seaspiracy over the weekend and was flabbergasted by what it showed me, but at the exact same time it's 100% what I should have expected. In case you haven't watched it, here's a good synopsis. But basically, once again, as an individual consumer trying to do the right thing, I can't. Because companies are lying to me, misrepresenting how they do business, and doing more harm in one day than I could do in a lifetime. I couldn't help feeling dejected, saddened, and frustrated. How can my small efforts make any differene when these huge multi-nationals are out there just fucking shit up every single day. And yes, there is the idea of 'but together we can achieve great things', but this battle is so lopsided that we can't actually undo the harm they are causing. Especially when it's under the guise of doing good.
One of the biggest learnings I got from the movie was learning that the MSC certification you see on most of the supermarket fish we buy here in the UK, is actually a company owned by Unilever. I don't know about you, but we actively would seek out buying seafood with this label.
I refuse to be dupped into another money making, marketing tactic these big companies are utilizing to MAKE MORE MONEY from us when we try to do the right thing. 80% of their profits come not from ensuring that these fisheries are being "sustainable" but instead from licensing the use of their label. What a crock, they just want to make more money. Here's just one small example of why the MSC label doesn't work.
"A notable example to me is the case of Canadian Swordfish. On average swordfishermen catch five blue sharks for every swordfish, which have been identified by the Canadian government as threatened, endangered and of special concern. While swordfishermen generally release the sharks, there have been studies on what happens after they are set free. These studies found that up to 35% of sharks caught by swordfish boats die straight away or within days of being set free. They estimate that for every swordfish caught two sharks are killed. Despite this seemingly violating the second rule of MSC principles (that practices don’t harm other life in the ecosystem) these fisheries were certified MSC sustainable in 2012. People buying MSC certified swordfish from Wholefoods may think their dinner is responsibly sourced, when in reality it may have led to the deaths of endangered sharks." -Ethical Unicorn
Unilever is not a trust worthy company in my eyes at all. They are one of the biggest players in this new corporate marketing game of greenwashing.
I feel angry at them, but also am judging myself for not doing my research. It only took a few minutes to find out Unilever owns MSC.
But that's just my point.
It shouldn't be our job to find out when a company is duping us or acting unethically. THEY SHOULD JUST NOT BE FUCKING DOING IT.
As a consumer, we should and deserve to be able to trust companies without having to spend 15 minutes researching each one. But the more I see terms like 'sustainable', 'green', 'eco-friendly', 'carbon-neutral', 'fair-trade', and any of the other environmentally friendly bingo buzz words companies are starting to use the more I realise how much the burden comes back to us.
Which is where we can affect change. By calling out big company bullshit, not giving them our money, supporting businesses models like B-Corps, and applauding when people make the right step forward (one example I can think of is Lidl's new food packaging that makes it very clear to understand how an animal was raised so you can make the right choice for yourself, verse using marketing money maker labels like Red Tractor).
So what am I actually getting at besides a big long rant?
Companies need to stop pushing the 'save the world' agenda onto consumers in an attempt to just make more profits. Another example I can think of is the sudden popularity of odd fruit and vegetables boxes, and as a marketing selling point on products, that by buying wonky fruit & veg you are going to help save the world. Sarah Taber, a crop scientist, explains that most of the ugly fruit was already being used, just in frozen and processed foods. Which makes complete sense. But some companies realised they could make some money by using our good intentions to do better for the environment, which feels really disingenuous.
If you want to use a model like above that's great, but don't make people feel like they are saving the world. Use real terms, be open and honest, quit pushing your greenwashed marketing bullshit onto us.
What does this actually mean for Cocktails By Mail and myself?
It means being honest. It means finding a way to actually do better for the environment. It means not letting myself fall into using marketing terms just because they sound nice without being able to back it up.
Cocktails and alcohol in general aren't terribly great for the environment.
First, alcohol is a luxury, we don't need it to survive.
Second, there's a lot of industrial waste that gets produced.
Third, a lot of times products are coming from far parts of the globe in glass bottles.
But people still want the drinks, Prohibition ain't happening again. And that's actually great. The alcohol industry is huge, and creates a lot of jobs. There are companies sincerely trying to do the right thing, and work better with the environment and their communities. These are the companies I need to buy from and use in my drinks.
I need to work on making sure my carbon footprint is as low as possible, and explain clearly to you how I am doing that. Whether it's my choice in packaging, how I purchase products, or how I ship them to you. It all adds up and you deserve as a consumer to clearly understand what it is you are purchasing.
It's also bigger goals, like becoming B-Corp certified, determining my carbon footprint using tools like ISO14067 when I can.
As a small micro company, some of these goals seem impossibly hard, but they aren't. They are just conscious decisions I need to work towards every day. I need my customers to call out my bullshit when they see it. It's calling out the big companies bullshit loudly and publicly. You can read more about my eco-stance here in my eco-policy. This is an ever evolving policy, because we realise there is no winning or end goal for the environment. We must constantly become better, not complacent. That's why you won't see me use phrases like "no waste" cocktails. Because that insinuates that I've won. That I've reached our goal and Ican rest on my laurels. Instead I want to constantly reduce my waste in every way possible. So right now I only have about one rubbish bag a week of actual garbage, but that's not enough. How much waste is being produced up the supply chain, am I working with partners who also reduce their waste, etc etc. You get the idea.
It's only working together in this manner that we will actually change anything.
This is by no means a real research paper, so please don't take it as such. I've used various links to help you understand where my thoughts and feelings come from, and only want to encourage you to understand a bit more what is happening behind all the 'green marketing'.