If you have been following my writing for Fast Company, you know that I tend to highlight positive corporate involvement in sustainable measures that benefit planet and humanity. I use this platform to bring forward stories of companies–and the men and women who represent them–committed to positive change. Lately, that interest has expanded into the role of how a company (and the products and services it provides) is able to change not only it’s own behavior, but that of a greater community of stakeholders. The many ways in which we citizens of the planet are called to evolve our behavior to meet the a growing list of environmental and social needs, it can become quite staggering. That is why I believe a company who actively contributes to such shifts in human behavior is one that acts in a more socially and environmentally responsible way.
This past February, I had the honor of introducing a panel for the Grammy’s (The Recording Academy) and Waste Management on the topic of the “Greening of the Music Industry”. One of my more recent Fast Company posts highlights part of this event and the themes discussed. As I previously introduced Drew McGowan of Brita, I spoke about his role with the company’s sponsorships of concerts and music tours. A simple google of “Filter for Good” and you will see dozens of examples of how the brand has interacted with some of the best music performers of our day–Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Willy Nelson Cheryl Crow and Lady Antebellum among them. A few weeks back, I was able to track down Drew and speak with him in further details about the company’s involvement with filtered water trends and education–specifically the company’s interest in moving the next generation away from single-use plastic bottled and toward a continued filtered water practice. What better place to do this than at a music concert or campus event.
If you have paid any attention to environmental or corporate social responsibility news over the past few years, you will know that bottled, tap and filtered water industries have all played a part in the delicate dance of producer responsibility, distribution and marketing in this country. In my conversation with McGowan it was clear that Brita wants to fill a market need for a water consumer who prefers the taste of filtered over tap and perhaps the lower environmental footprint of filtered over bottled. The are no grand and sweeping claims than demonize tap water or try to convince consumers that they are poisoning themselves every time they brush their teeth. The war here (if there is one) is on the vast amounts of consumer packaging in the form of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) that ends up in U.S. landfills or perhaps worse, our rivers and streams, each year. Recently, I met with Dr. Marcus Erikson, marine biologist, and learned more about the 5 ocean gyres of floating plastic around our globe. Talk about an ecological crisis. This topic deserves more attention, but I”ll leave that to he bloggers over at E Magazine or Mother Jones.
So, sticking to the corporate responsibility topic, what’s so great about Brita’s campaign? As referenced above, it partners with college campuses and concert tours which reach the youth market to influence all kinds of sustainable behavior change. The rise of the green music tour allows for more socially and environmentally responsible clothing, food, and concert promotion to influence a rising generation of decision makers. The best example is Brita’s “hydration stations.” These stations allow concert goers to refill their reusable water bottles with filtered water on site. When traveling for concerts and events, these station are portable trailors. Back home, businesses can now install these stations into their facilities to help provide clean filtered water to employees, customers and other guests. Raising awareness of the next generation of American consumers and giving them the tools to make better environmental decisions is the way we will bring about compounded positive change.
There is no doubt that recycling plastic bottles is still very important global initiative and we all want to encourage as everyone along the bottled water life cycle to get those bottles out of the trash and into recycling, so companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle Waters North American can push forward with a stronger closed looped process for PET recycling. I love the vision of a bottle back to bottle world. But remember that it still takes an amazing amount of energy and resources (in the form of coal, petroleum, water and human capital) to produce bottled water in the first place–let alone collect, transport, sort and recycle those PET bottles once we are done drinking from them. And today, only 25% of the PET bottles out there are making it back to recycling. That means the other 75% go to waste. With Brita product solutions, at the end of the concert or any other special event, we reduce the vast volumes of bottles to be collected and sorted as part of the clean up. Let time, less waste.
The future of concert memorabilia will now include a Tour Branded refillable water bottle. And the next trend will be a reusable bottled with a Brita filter included on the lid? This year, Brita launched the all-new Brita Bottle featuring a filter inside allowing consumers to enjoy Brita-filtered water anywhere, anytime. The reusable bottle is BPA-free, dishwasher-safe and recyclable, but I plan on keeping mine for a while.
Yesterday, as I walked into my chiropractor’s office, he announced to me that he is no longer using the bottled watered provided to him by the gym where his office resides. Instead had made an investment in this latest technology from Brita. He is doing his part to reduce his impact, even if it is just in the gym where he works. But he is also influencing others. His small business is working to change behavior of his customers by exposing them to a new way to thinking about hydration while working out. I think I will be the next in line to carry my Brita Bottle in for my next work out.