Make a pledge this Earth Day

One year ago, DS Smith passed on plastic when we sold our Plastics business to focus on sustainable packaging solutions for our customers.

In September 2020, we launched our Now and Next Sustainability Strategy, where we pledged to educate 5 million people on the circular economy, protect natural resources, reduce carbon emissions per tonne of product by 30% by 2030 against a 2015 baseline, take 1 billion pieces of problem plastics off supermarket shelves and continue to close the loop through better design.  

This year's Earth Day theme not only focuses on the need to reduce our impact on the planet but also on how we can play a vital role in repairing the damage we have done. That's why, to mark Earth Day 2021, we are calling on our people, our customers and society to make one change today that will protect our tomorrow, by committing to one environmentally conscious pledge that will help restore or protect our planet. 

So what is the one thing you promise to do today that will make a difference in the coming year?

Need some pledge inspiration? 

 If you are struggling with an idea for a pledge, we have a few below for you to choose from:  

1. Protect natural resources -We need to use as few natural resources as possible, continue to care for forests and increase biodiversity. Here are a few pledges you can make if you want to protect natural resources:

  • Plant a tree or give a tree as a gift: If you have space, plant a tree this year. If you don't have space, make a tree your gift of choice for 2021. It's a novel gift and helps spread the word that we need to all be more conscious of the role we play in the protection of natural resources.  
  • Flower power: If a tree is too big for your garden, plant flowers to help support local biodiversity.  
  • Check the labels: Limit the use of pesticides in your garden and check what impact these chemicals might have on plants, insects and animals.  

2. Pass on plastics - In total over 65 million tonnes of plastic is produced in Europe each year. Despite the public’s increasing concerns about plastic consumption, a huge amount is still being sent to landfill, or worse, ends up in our oceans. When you are doing your weekly shop, avoid plastic containers and trays. Plastic cannot be recycled easily while cardboard can be recycled up to 25 times! Here are a few pledges you can make if you want to pass on plastics: 

  • Packaging over convenience: choose sustainable packaging and say no to products in plastic.  
  • Nothing is best: buy loose fruit over packaged fruit and especially not fruit in plastic wrapping .
  • Reuse over misuse: buy a reusable water bottle to reduce your plastic waste.

3. Champion the circular economy - Our world is changing rapidly, and moving towards a more circular economy will have a range of benefits for our economy, our environment and for our people. Circular economies, catalysed by a new generation of more conscious consumers are challenging the status quo. Here are a few pledges you can make if you want to champion the circular economy: 

  • Be a champion: Learn why the circular economy is the future, and share the word with your friends and family.
  • Go plant-based: Introduce more of a plant-based diet into your diet even if it's just once a week.
  • Rethink: Find a use for that item or product you were thinking of throwing away. Upcycle whatever you can and when you are considering a purchase, ask yourself if you could borrow or buy it second hand.

4. Reduce waste and pollution -Better sustainable practices start with the reduction of waste and pollution. Here are a few pledges you can make if you want to reduce your impact:

  • Reuse: Use packaging as many times as you can before recycling it: we don't want to create waste unless we absolutely have to.
  • Check the fine print: Don’t print on paper unless you have no other option. 
  • Pick it up: Organise or participate in a cleanup/litter pick. If you are like running, try organising a plogging event, where you pick up litter while on a run.  
  • Ask for less: Do you really need that packaging when you are collecting your food order, or doing shopping in general?

5. Reduce carbon footprint - Carbon reduction is extremely important if we want to make a positive impact on our planet. Here are a few pledges you can make if you want to reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Be smart with your appliances: Change to LED bulbs and other products that will eliminate unnecessary power consumption and wasted energy.
  • Travel Smart: Walk to the shops instead of driving or ride a bike to work.

We have asked a few of our team to share their pledges to inspire us all to pledge to make a difference.  

DS Smith Leadership Pledges: 

Jan Atkinson, Group Head of Talent: As a keen gardener, I’m trying to garden more organically and sustainably and build havens for wildlife. This spring I’ve installed tubs hidden in the flower beds for watering the plants instead of using the hose - some even have solar fountains in which the birds seem to love to use as a shower.

Wouter van Tol, Head of Government, Community Affairs & Sustainability: I pledge to introduce more of a plant-based diet into my daily routine. Avoiding meat, in particular beef, is one of the best ways we can reduce our environmental impact. Did you know that cows produce lots of methane which is 84 times worse for climate change than CO2 (measured over a 20 year period)? That’s why I’ll reduce meat consumption, replace beef with chicken in those situations when I still want to eat meat, and replace cow’s milk with oat milk. My daughter has already changed to a vegetarian diet and I’ve learned through that experience that plant-based food can be just as delicious!

Julie Westcott, Group Health & Safety Director: Bees and other pollinators have seen dramatic declines over the past 80 years as a result of habitat loss, disease and the overuse of pesticides. Gardens have therefore become even more important for bees. This year I pledge to plant wildflowers, all specially chosen to attract bees and other pollinators – including cornflowers, poppies and foxgloves.

Colin McIntyre, CEO of Paper & Recycling: Since moving into my house 4 years ago I have planted 10 new trees in my garden. I pledge to plant a new tree every year until I run out of space. By doing this,  I get to see flowering from  all different types of trees, whilst helping to protect natural resources - a win-win situation!

Teresa Del Re, Packaging Marketing Director: I pledge to reuse or gift any unused furniture I've been storing in my garage and ensure it has a second life in someone else's home.

Greg Dawson, Director of Corporate Affairs: I am going to reduce my travel by half, focusing on both the frequency and distance of trips taken.  Out of work, I would like to spend more time locally with my family, rather than taking longer distance excursions.  At work, I can use technology to be present instead of always making a journey.