At the start of my career as a journalist, I remember attending an event on waste management. There were a variety of speakers at this London show, but most of their talks focused on blaming the public for not recycling properly. This irked a delegate who proclaimed during the Q&A session: “Aren’t you all members of the public? I am fed up of attending these events that keep on blaming members of the public for bad recycling practices.”
He also said that due to bad waste policy, local communities were bearing the brunt of the cost of cleaning up in “this throwaway economy” instead of the producers of the throwaway products and packaging (or something along those lines).
These comments have recently come back into my thoughts as I think about the where the bioeconomy is heading. This is because the public are not always aware of the positive things the bio-based sector is doing.
Examples of success stories aren’t hard to find and some great work is being done to promote bio-based materials and promote the role they play in helping to reduce our carbon footprint. There is also work being done on making sure products are designed to be recyclable at their end of life.
However, even with all this good news occurring, there are still a lot of companies who are not sharing their positive stories or progress updates.
Why aren’t these companies shouting from the rooftops about their products? It could be because they are not ready to talk about their products or they fear their competitors gaining an advantage over them if they spill the beans, among other reasons.
With every industry, you get the good as well as the bad. If I was to lay one criticism at the door of the bio-based sector, it would be that it does tend to talk to itself. One can’t blame the public or the media for not understanding the intricacies of the sector if one doesn’t get out there.
In essence, if there is a challenge, don’t wait for someone else to change things, make it happen.
I have seen a great shift in sentiment with the public embracing the bio-based sector over the years. And, sustainability is currently a hot topic on the news agenda. The industry should really start riding this wave. Some are doing this already, but more could join in.
So, what can we do to improve communication of the bioeconomy? The sector could kick-start a support campaign that sets out to educate the general public on the virtues of the bioeconomy. As part of this PR facelift, suppliers of sustainable materials should be giving testimonials, students could be visiting some of the labs and manufacturing facilities that produce these bio-based materials on school trips (what a lesson in biology and engineering!). Furthermore, local news could be covering the benefits of using alternative materials instead of using fossil fuel-based ones.
The public (all of us) are starting to take environmental issues and climate change more seriously. As an industry let’s try to keep this momentum going by telling our positive stories.
What do you think? Do you agree?
Let’s start a conversation.
Elsewhere, Bio Market Insights is starting to looking ahead into 2020 and beyond. What will the key trends be? What will be the main challenges? What can your government or industry do to help promote growth?
Please get involved and email me (deputy editor) on firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to take part.