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Last week it was announced that HP and IKEA had joined NextWave Plastics, a coalition working together to reduce ocean-bound plastics. NextWave Plastics is a cross-industry group of companies working in “a collaborative, open-sourced and transparent fashion to create the first global network of ocean-bound plastics supply chains”. NextWave plastics was founded by Dell Technologies and Lonely Whale in 2017 and now includes 10 companies including General Motors and Herman Miller.

Another corporate sustainability pledge? Here’s why this is different, and important!  

Drop in the ocean. The last decade has seen brands, big and small, make huge efforts when it comes to sustainability. We’ve written about these for years. However, as the UN announced last month, these efforts aren’t enough. We have just 12 years left to avoid a climate catastrophe. And while mega-brands keep getting bigger, they’re still tiny players in the epic arena that is modern consumerism. One telling example: even McDonald’s and Starbucks only distribute 4% of the estimated 600 billion cups the world uses each year.

Open-source: the new eco-frontier? Both HP and IKEA already have numerous initiatives focused on reducing their plastic consumption. However as Kevin Brown, chief supply chain officer at Dell Technologies says “it’s become increasingly clear that the solution to marine plastic pollution requires bold innovation and open collaboration. No company can solve this issue alone.” The good news is that in the last few months we’ve seen a host of organizations do exactly this: from McDonalds joining Starbucks’ multi-million dollar competition to create a fully recyclable coffee cup, to Allbirds actively not patenting its SweetFoam (sugarcane-based ‘rubber’) shoe sole material.  

Expectation Economy. Regular readers will know this is exactly how trends emerge. With every announcement of new open-source eco-initiatives, customer expectations will shift. Suddenly no matter how sustainable your operations are, if you keep this knowledge to yourself then you will be limiting its impact. And that will quickly be unacceptable. So here’s a provocative question for you: which proprietary assets will you share in order to increase their positive impact?