3 September, 2021
With the latest IPCC report hot off the press and COP26 around the corner, momentum is building for ambitious climate action. Which is why we were particularly struck by an advertisement from Harrods in last week’s Times.
The ad in question announced Harrods’ upcoming transition to the use of paper carrier bags in place of their iconic plastic tote. And while Good Business is always in favour of brands taking action to minimise their environmental impact, we found this announcement particularly problematic.
Even setting aside the uncertainties around whether paper bags are actually better for the environment, it’s hard to see Harrods’ move from plastic to paper as part of any kind of cutting-edge climate strategy. And given that this is a transition many brands have already made, it’s not clear why they felt it warranted a full-page announcement.
But this isn’t just another call out on corporate greenwashing. It’s about the way businesses’ roles and responsibilities within the climate crisis are positioned. Consumers need to understand what it means for brands to take ownership of their environmental impacts. Competitors have to see that if they’re not at the forefront of climate action, they’re falling behind. Harrods positioning themselves as the forefront of sustainability doesn’t help with either of these – nor does it show that they are taking the environment particularly seriously.
If there was ever a time for businesses to go big on climate, it’s now. Set ambitious targets, make bold commitments and don’t be shy to shout about your progress. But for the sake of driving the climate conversation forward, make sure it’s actually something to shout about.
By Louise Podmore