Several years ago, human was so interested in the extraction of nature to support the life of people in the earth. It was before the decreasing supply of nature due to over-extraction that the necessity to find alternative of sources to make the earth more sustainable take place. Today, we see in many places taglines of green living, sustainable earth or care nature that urge people to preserve and even cultivate again our nature that has been destructed by extraction without control.
This week, I went shopping as part of my regular “ weekly things to do” except, this time I got in into a very long queue line in the supermarket’s cashier. Then I realized that it is 5p.m. and as usual in this time many people going back from work and stop in supermarket for quick shopping for dinner or just grab some foods for their stock. In this long queue, I saw a plastic bag that I took the picture of it. During the queue, I reflected in my mind about how this plastic bag could be there in the supermarket, when people outside have put a large banners and costly commercials of how people should live by “going green”.
What caught me right away first of all is how the plastic bag could be there, but then having take a look into the detail, I could also see a text that stated “Reduce Use of Plastic Bag..Refuse, Reuse, Recycle”. Those two reasons are quite provoking to start a post in this blog for it is an example of going to the wrong way from kaizen or continuous improvement. An example of a good and right intention that wrongly planned as well as executed.
So, why not begin from looking at the supply chain. All products will have the same flow which basically begin from Supplier to Manufacturer to Logistics and at the end to Retailer that directly has contact with Customers that is us. Then, we have an issue that plastic bag is bad for the nature as we have seen before in the text located in the plastic bag ( “Reduce Use of Plastic Bag..Refuse, Reuse, Recycle”). From this, it is clear that the plastic bag is bad for nature, and that people should refuse it.
Then the question came up of why they place the decision on customers? Does customers do have bigger impacts to preserving nature by making choice of use or not use plastic bags?
I would say that if plastic bag is bad and customers should refuse it, then it should not be produced in the first place.
By not producing plastic bag at all, customers will not be blamed for choosing plastic bag. Today, it seems like buying a plastic bag is taboo for customers and plastic bag is the temptation that will always exist. It should not be like that, eliminating plastic bag from the early in supply chain could substantially decrease the problem since at the end of the day there is no plastic bag that could be bought by a customer.
Frankly, the current situation that happen is that customers go on shopping to a certain shop, they buy their product that they wish to buy, and then at the end either the cashier will ask “do you want a plastic bag ?” or in the cashier you can pick one. Either one you will have temptation to use plastic bag and most probably some people will somehow choose to use it.
This is a system that has a flaw, if “green” means not using plastic bag, why you have plastic bag offered to you that tempted a customer to use it. Can you imagine one time, a customer that life 2 km from the shopping area and buy 3 kg of whatever it is and he/she has to carry all of his/her stuffs from the shopping area to his/her home by walking? it is certain for this type of person that if the plastic bag is offered to them, they will definitely use it.Additionally, it is not rare that some companies even put a blame on this poor guy by saying that if he knew already he has a pretty far distance to travel with huge amount of weight he should by himself be prepared by bringing a backpack or trolley.
But it seems still this solution has its flaw because since when the customer become a servant? customer is a king while the best is a partner. but it is not rational for the one who will sell product to customers to blame customers for their living condition.
It is true that apparently the existence of plastic bag is for helping this kind of person that really need to carry their stuffs. But, going green means not only customer being pushed by all the supply chain to act in terms of taking step in making a choice, but all of them that is inside the supply chain has to commit together in the green movement. Just imagine, if Supermarkets determined that they will not buy plastic bag from Logistics that is not green or not recyclable or biodegradable or even they will not use plastic at all and buy other alternative bag, then there will be no customers that will be blame. Imagine that Logistics will also commit of not delivering these plastics and later the manufacturer will not produce it and at the end the suppliers will not supply it. Then there will be no finger pointing about who is wrong because the plastic bag simply do not exist anymore.
In plastic bag industry that relate closely with supermarkets, taglines of green line actually still aim solely toward customers. But we can take a very very nice and successful act from several other industry that prove to be work.
A company or industry that decide to support the conversion to green and sustainable living has two options:
Increasing the awareness of customers then produce product
Produce a product and then offer to customers
In the first approach, it bases on presumption that customers’ awareness of green living could influence what product that they will buy and this is one of the many ultimate reason of not beginning the transformation to green product early in the supply chain but instead delaying it by forcing customers to suffer by giving them a right and wrong choice.
The second one, is to invent a product and offer it to customers. Basically, when we think about a product, there are two kind of how manufacturers could make a product. First type is making a product by looking at the market needs, getting the voice of customers, trying to figure out what they need and improve the product based on it. This is the first approach based on. Then, there is a second one which the customer has no idea about the product that they need at all.It is totally unimaginable for customers that before this product being produced and sold, customers have no idea that they will actually will need this and use it. (like computers, ipad, hand phone, and other product)
Many companies have gone into trap in this first approach which will bring a suffering to customers for a very long terms by trying to make them realize that green is the way of living.
Some companies is already following the second approach to transformation to a green living. There is some good examples, but let me just take two of the most important one. The first one is in the field of energy that basically try to invent green power that will later replace fossil power in the future and also in the field of transportation that replace oil power with electro or hybrid power. Both of this has taken the second approach of offering to customers a fundamentally new product that customers have not yet even imagined before.
Green power will make customers not feeling guilty anymore of using fossil power without clear alternative in front of them that they can have a much better and greener alternative. It is also the same for hybrid power. Customer will have the options to contribute to the sustainability buy buying it instead of gasoline power. For both cases, it is not easy for both industry to innovate into green power and also hybrid power since it has very big risk of replacing gasoline supply chain with hybrid supply chain and fossil with green power.
One example is Toyota hybrid car. the company has philosophy of making customers their first priority and not letting the customers to suffer between choices that they should make. The company realize that it is not right that the customers should resist themself in buying a particular cars, but it is the manufacturers that should come with alternative that still serve the same purpose but will be more incline toward caring of environment. In the first place, Toyota didn’t know that Hybrid will ever become alternative that will works, even the company didn’t know at the time of first launched. But the brave initiative for the purpose of serving both customers and the sustainability of the world leads to a solution that works for both releasing the suffering of choice that customers’ have and also contributing to sustainability of the world and society.
This way of thinking and brave decision toward green and sustainability should also emerge in other industry because to begin with the green transformation, it takes big courage from manufacturers and enormous believe that the company themselves has a will and able to contribute to bring society to green and sustainable living by starting by themselves with their own innovative product or solution. Once a manufacturer has a strong believe on this, they are most unlikely to claim to the world that they are a green and sustainable companies but what they are actually doing is putting the customers as a verdict to put a blame on.