In the year 2000, the United Nations met together and committed to achieve eight goals by the year 2015. The goals, known collectively as the Millennium Development Goals included items such as “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,” “Reduce child mortality,” and “Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.” Each goal had specific targets, dates to achieve the targets, and financial aid.
Can Goals Achieve Anything?
Of course, you know how this story ends, right? None of the goals worked and everything is still terrible…. right?
Actually, no. Not really. Although the end result was uneven and some nations are a lot closer to achieving the goals than others, most goals have had significant, measurable progress.
The number of people who live in extreme poverty is half of what it was in 1990. Childhood mortality has also dropped by more than half in that same time period.
It’s actually really encouraging to see how far we’ve progressed in just one generation. Children born today are less likely to be poor or sick and more likely to be educated than at any other time in human history.
(You can learn more about the progress on these goals in YouTube videos by John Green, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.)
However, there is one goal that hasn’t gone well: Number 7—Ensure Environmental Sustainability. You don’t have to look far to know why. Barely a week goes by without a new article quoting scientists warning of decreasing biodiversity, rising sea levels, and increasing global temperatures.
In September, the UN met again and created 17 new goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, that we as a planet need to achieve by 2030. And of the 17, no less than 7 are based around protecting the environment (although it can be argued that a clean environment impacts many human based goals like poverty and hunger as well).
These environmentally based goals are:
- #6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
- #7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
- #11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
- #12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
- #13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
- #14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
- #15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
You can click on each of the links to read about the targets and the target dates. You don’t have to read a whole lot to see that we’ve definitely got our work cut out for us.
So what does packaging have to do with all of this?
In a lot of ways, packaging is like fire. It can be an invaluable tool, but sometimes it can also be very dangerous. Packaging delivers clean water and medicine, it helps food last longer, and it protects valuable economic goods—all things that are important to the Sustainable Development Goals.
At the same time, packaging doesn’t magically disappear once it’s been used. In rapidly developing cities, waste management is often a struggle. And goal #14—protect our oceans—is largely aimed at reducing the dangerous levels of pollution in the seas, among other things. When 30% of all trash is packaging waste, you know that we play a key role in accomplishing the sustainability goals.
There are a couple of key things packaging professionals can do to make sure their companies are helping the Earth achieve these goals, rather than contribute to the problem:
- Use more sustainable packaging. Void fillers made of Styrofoam and polyethylene take a notoriously long time to decompose, and have particularly damaging effects when they’re left in the environment. Look for alternative, biodegradable solutions wherever possible.
- Use less packaging. This seems fairly obvious, but packaging that isn’t used can’t end up polluting our cities, forests, or oceans. There should always be enough packaging to protect your goods, but an overabundance of it can often lead to upset customers and even products that are damaged in transit.
Fifteen years from now, we’re going to be evaluating these goals. And the consequences of failing to meet them will be much more far-reaching than any quarterly budget or sales quota. Our challenge to you is to help ensure that in 15 years’ time, your company will be able to look back and be proud of its actions and its contributions to sustainable development.
Packsize is committed to helping our customers leave the smallest carbon footprint possible. Fill out the form below to get a free download of our infographic white paper: What Can On Demand Packaging® do for You? In it, you’ll learn how much of a difference even a 20% reduction in box size can mean for the environment.