Viewpoint: An Honest Answer To A Fair Question
Dear Promo Comrades: The possibility exists that someday you might have to respond to the question of whether some or all of the promotional products we bring into the market are earth-friendly and how they are not items that will someday end up in a landfill. Here’s a response I’ve used that I’m happy to share.
Dear Ms./Mr. Client: I can understand why you might ask this question about the products in our industry. When I hear someone ask this, however, I always think first about whether my own house is in order. Why? Because in virtually every drawer, cabinet and shelf in my own home, I can find a product that is neither recyclable nor repurposed. Despite the fact that I personally try my best to purchase recyclable/recycled products, avoid single-use plastic bags, support sustainable brands and embrace manufacturers with fair labor practices, I still cannot say that all of the products in my home are, in fact, earth-friendly.
In my bathroom cabinet, maybe just like yours, I see plastic bottles, glass jars with plastic lids, spray bottles, pill bottles, cosmetic cases of all kinds, plastic toothbrushes, combs, razors, you name it. In my garage, it is worse—different tools, applications, chemicals, paint cans, and most of them are not eco-friendly. Now why is that?
The answer is that we all purchase items from retail companies whose products come from all over the world. The retail market represents more than $4 trillion dollars in sales annually. In comparison, the promotional products industry is tiny: only $24 billion (pre-COVID-19). Our industry is a very small subset of the retail industry and, even so, most of our wonderful manufacturers are making big changes alongside the national and global brands to help our environment thrive in years to come. To focus on or call out our industry alone against the Goliath called retail is simply misguided.
To suggest that the heartwarming and memorable promotional products used by companies to promote their brands could be labeled wasteful causes me to think we should all look in the mirror and clean up our own homes (and businesses) first. If we can all say vehemently that we will never again purchase anything that is not 100-percent recyclable, compostable or sustainable, and that we will also become vegan to ensure that we are reducing our own personal carbon footprint from food production by more than 70 percent alone, then we are not culpable. However, my guess is that none of us can feasibly do all of this all of the time, as hard as we may try. And we are trying.
Yes, we have thousands of environmentally-friendly products to share with you that don’t hurt the environment. In reality though, what truly counts or matters most is the way you vote with your dollars at the gigantic retail-store level to support “green industries” the next time you purchase anything. That is where the economics of change for the good of our globe will occur.
Simply know this: Every day in every way, we are bringing you our industry’s best efforts to maximize passion for your brand with an amazing eco-conscious assortment of solutions. You can trust that this highly effective advertising industry that has been around for more than 100 years will always have the best interests of all our children at heart. And ultimately, your brand’s impressions will look remarkably better along the way because of what we do.
Janie Gaunce is president and CEO of distributor Grapevine Designs, LLC, in Lenexa, Kansas.
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