- HP and IKEA have joined NextWave Plastics, an initiative to develop a commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics supply chain, according to a press release.
- The companies join Dell, General Motors and six others in a commitment to source verified ocean-bound plastics from Cameroon, Chile, Denmark, Haiti, Indonesia and the Philippines, and to add new sources of supply from a minimum of three additional countries including India, Taiwan, Thailand by 2025.
- "Our goal is to make ocean-bound plastic a commodity for the future, and we want to take initiatives to prevent plastic from ending up in the ocean in the first place" said Lena Pripp-Kovac, sustainability manager for Inter IKEA Group, in a statement.
Kudos to HP, IKEA and others for actively addressing the issues of plastics in our oceans. Instead of just speaking about their sustainability efforts, they are mobilizing to address the root cause issues around ocean-bound plastics. This shows business can play a key role in environmental challenges, albeit one where they, and their supply chains, have been a contributor to the problem.
It is a start but not a solution.
To understand the enormity of the problem of trash in our oceans, consider only the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: A 600,000 square mile floating patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean located between California and Hawaii. This is an area twice the size of Texas.
This amount of garbage dwarfs the trash washing up on Hispaniola, the island home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. While countries like Haiti may look at the trash as a business opportunity, the images of trash recently landing on beaches on the Dominican Republic as a result of the increasing intensity of ocean storms are horrific.
The quality assurance processes familiar to supply chain and operations professionals alike focus on prevention, not appraisal. Fundamentally, the system works to identify and eliminate the root cause of the problem and prevent it from happening in the first place. Cleaning up after the problem is reactive and not proactive, and certainly not cost effective.
This is where we are with plastics and other pollution in the oceans. We need to keep it out. Period.
Supply chain managers have the power and opportunity to address environmental concerns in the supply chain through their sourcing activities, contracting process, and the bully pulpit. If the larger companies are addressing environmental issues in their supply chains, then all sized companies should join the fight as well.
The issues are enormous and will not be solved overnight. But the stakes are enormous as well. Behaviors and actions at the local, national, and international levels need to reflect the enormity of the problem.