Keep An Eye On Sustainability Initiatives
…look for sales opportunities when prospects announce changes in sourcing principles. 2/10/2020 | Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector

Raise your hand if your late-night hunger pangs have driven you through the Taco Bell drive-thru. If that passion for a greasy fix made you question your judgment later in the cool light of day, take heart. At least you were supporting a fast food chain going greener by choice—or one headed in that direction because their customer base told them they need to.

If you “Run for the Border” on a more frequent basis, you may have noticed that Taco Bell switched to recyclable cold drink cups and lids two years ago. In addition, the fast food chain had vegetarian offerings on the menu, but these items weren’t featured in marketing efforts until last year. Taco Bell was also among the first in fast food to swap out plastic single-use bags for paper.

But, what’s next for Taco Bell surprised me by how aggressive an initiative it is. As part of its 2020 commitments, Taco Bell says it will convert all consumer-facing packaging to be either reusable, recyclable, or compostable at all locations around the world by 2025. The company will install recycling and composting bins in restaurants where local resources allow. Note that not every town composts together as a community, and what actually is recyclable where varies by community. The new packaging materials will also be free of PFAS, phthalates, and BPA, the chemicals we’ve talked about frequently that research has shown to be associated with cancer, thyroid disease, and low birth weight.

So, while you may not be looking to be qualified as a vendor at Yum! Brands (parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut), it’s always a good idea to scour around for announcements of this kind of initiative by prospective clients. Check corporate websites for “latest news” or publicity releases. Your prospect, or your current client for that matter, might just be coming into the market for sustainably sourced drinkware, straws, lids, utensils, food containers—maybe a complete overhaul of their break room, conference room, or cafeteria. Don’t forget the hard goods and soft goods to help publicize the initiative to be 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable, which would, of course, fit one of those criteria as well. Getting the idea of just how big this could be at one of your prospects?

For Taco Bell, this is a BIG change, the company has 7,000 restaurants serving 47 million customers a week. “With growing sustainability concerns including plastic use and recycling practices, we wanted to make these commitments, so our fans don’t have to choose between ‘craveability’ and responsible dining,” Missy Schaaphok, Taco Bell’s global nutrition and sustainability manager, told Energy Manager Today.  “We have a responsibility to leave a lighter footprint on the Earth. On top of that, there’s legislation happening across the US, mostly in the coastal states, related to packaging. Over the past few years, we’ve been working to ensure all of our restaurants are in compliance.”

This is still a work-in-progress for Taco Bell. They’ve created a specific team focused on working with suppliers to rethink packaging through 2025 with a focus on sustainability, functionality, and communication. Your client, or prospect, may not have a sourcing need this large or complex, but they may have a responsible sourcing initiative just as important to them. Wouldn’t you want to be considered “on the team” to help reach that goal?

Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for 40 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. Connect with Jeff on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or his personal blog on Tumblr or jeffreypjacobs.com. Reach out to him on email at jacobs.jeffreyp@gmail.com.


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