To corporate or not to corporate?
We would like to begin a conversation on the relationship Precious Plastic should have with corporations. As the project grew bigger over the past years (thanks to all of you 🖐), we keep getting more & more requests from massive corporates to collaborate, partner or work together. Coca Cola, Unilever, Gazprom, Danone, Nestle, Volkswagen, Adidas and the many more came to knock at our door in recent times.
We generally don’t really like big companies and turn down their offers.
We turn their offers down because we believe they have more effective ways to reduce their plastic waste and negative environmental impact (like going upstream in their processes and stop producing the crap in the first place, shift technologies, design better, support alternative material research etc…). We see most of this offers as plain greenwash- looking good while doing little real change.
Precious Plastic was set up as a reaction to this practices and types of businesses. Someone has to stop playing their game- it has been going on for a little too long we think.
However, letting those offers down leaves us with a few doubts.
First, as you can imagine, this offers come with good budgets. This money that could be used to push Precious Plastic research and open source community further as well as possibly help pay for our work (we mainly work on a voluntary basis or very small salaries).
Second, and most importantly, our stubbornness could be closing doors to meaningful developments of Precious Plastic.
Let’s create a fictional example to discuss the topic.
Corporate [x] contacted us to work together in India. They have XXXX € budget and would like to create 10 Precious Plastic workspaces around India within a year. XXXX€ would be used to create the workspaces, cover our costs back home, pay back expenses to people helping us out (housing + travel) and if anything left pay a little money to the core team.
As we see it:
Pros: 10 workspaces in India, budget to push Precious Plastic further, cover costs and pay people.
Cons: Precious Plastic would be used as a tool lift Corporate [x] image, Precious Plastic would be seen as supporting Corporate [x], Corporate [x] would feel like they’ve done their part preventing them from pursuing more meaningful ways of tackling their environmental footprint.
Now we throw the ball to you community:
What would be the smartest thing to do?
Anyone with previous experience or thoughts on this?
Team Plastic 🙌
Uff. Though one. I do like the charm of how it has stayed so independent so far but I see the point in getting a bigger budget and more possibilities.
Currently everybody working on this in some way strongly believes in the idea behind it. If I were you I’d get worried people might get pulled off from starting or continuing contributing because it could seem like you’d be doing it for the money instead of the idea and own motivation. This is obviously not true, but to people with less in-depth knowledge on the project this might seem like that, I think.
And this would also influence other precious plastic businesses, because they might get linked with that brand as well, no? Just thinking out loud here.
Surely there must have been other open source projects that have had to deal with this issue as well?
Interesting topic. Curious what other people from the community think.
At first, it depends highly on the way of cooperation with the corporate. To answer with the fictional example:
If the corporate has budget to realize 10 workshops and you need to state somewhere that those workshops were made possible by company x. I personally think it is oke. (Probably a bit of green-washing but with a real, positive and good goal)
Try to avoid that one company is sponsoring in general.
Also I think, first some pilots (like Kenya) should be conducted to see how it works to install workshops in certain areas. It is a waste when the workshops are only set up but not used to their fully potential.
Getting more budget also requires better and certainly more budget management. This will maybe require to expand the team with some people with more managing skills. Somethings that can work out both positive and negative.
Also some cost coverage for people helping out should be good. Off course, people are already helping out big time but some do a lot of effort to help out (come to NL for half a year, rent a spot to sleep etc). Should be nice to support them a bit more with their costs. Not like a paid job, but more to help a bit.
Also a rent crew-house in Helmond is something that can maybe achieved with corporates supporting.
As you said,
My advice: Cooperate a bit to push PP to higher levels, dont sell the PP hart.
I think the most budgets goes directly to projects not to salary.
And if some money is left over. You can maybe cover some expenses made by the people who worked in the team. I agree it is hard to let people know/ understand it is not about earning money but using money for the good case.
So that is why PP should maybe cooperate with companies on projects, not just sponsors giving money
@mattia-io oh boy its gonna be a big one! please bear with me.
to corporate or not to corporate it really is the question but at times like this its good to follow the rule of “one for the kitchen,one for the soul”
let me explain –
We all know Morgan Freeman, one of the finest actors with the voice of God. He has done legendary films like Shawshank Redemption and he’s one not so good films like Now You see me 2
You know why? coz those films pay more so he can use that money to invest in films that wouldn’t be funded otherwise, something offbeat, or maybe take a paycut in a really awesome film because its budget is low. Hell he has even recorded his voice for millionaire as their voicemail message, if they are willing to pay. Now what can be more corporate than this.
This point im trying to say is, sure corporations won’t have the same feel as us community members do about Precious Plastic, but they’ve got the audience reach and money which is helpful to share the message of recycling plastic, which honestly us community members won’t be able to provide, atleast not at that scale.
I’ve been banging some corporate doors in India for well over 6 months now😞 but no luck because everyone wants ‘proof of concept’ before sponsoring and by proof of concept they mean an entire set up workshop with sales report and profits, failing to understand that this is what I need sponsors in the first place.
So for companies from India reaching out to you and asking you to setup not 1 but 10 workshops is really a big thing (atleast for me) Plus it will tackle a big problem in India ie waste management which even the Prime Minister is concerned about, so much so that hr had to launch an initiative called “Swacch Bharat”, the first thing he did after taking office.
I don’t see any loss even if the company “corporate-ify” this whole thing up because even then there will be 10 PP workshops in India and people will be talking about how you can do it to in your garage. Its that what @davehakkens aimed in his V3 intro video?
Here what I think you should do (no offense) you should keep the “Indie-punk-rock-I wont play by your rules” feeling aside for a while and take this gig. But you should clearly mention it to the company that “we won’t play by your rules” 😂 and that some amount of money “will” go to PP R&D, not if its left or any of that crap, it “will” go because to even reach this point in PP you needed money for R&D.
And if this rant does not convince you to come to India then I have better offer for you.
I’ll get you authentic home made Indian food.
P.S Maybe I know this corporations name, pretty good one though.
Speaking as someone who once worked for an ‘environmental’ charity that sold itself out to corporates, I say don’t do it (It backfired and cost them more in rebranding and changing their image, it almost finished them). You will lose respect from the very people you want to get on board, and call your credibility into question. If PP is really a worthwhile thing, it ought to be able to stand on its own.
Thanks for the thorough response. And the examples you provided, we all love Morgan 😀.
you right, audience reach and money are important – but maybe there are alternative ways to achieve those. But yhe, we definitely need to come in India- big need.
And would love to try your food 🙌
I’d say ‘do it’, no doubt in my mind. Definitely on your own terms and conditions, of course. But honestly, I thinks it’s a bit shortminded to say no just out of stubborness and for the sake of being more punk. In fact, it’s not only a great opportunity to expand and grow PP, but at the same time it’s an extraordinary opportunity to have an actual impact (even if only in the conversation) on Corporation X.
A great example of a company with similar ethical concerns and a great way to handle them, is StreetwiZe. They offer training on leadership and management to big companies like Coca Cola, Nike and several banks. All with the purpose of building Mobile Schools for street children. So, their impact is double: they ‘use’ the big companies to earn money which they can invest in street children, and at the same time they ‘teach’ these companies to be more socially responsible. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it works pretty darn well and at least it get’s the conversation started and that in itself is already an important impact you can have. (if interested, check http://www.streetwize.be)
Oh, and as far as using the money for salaries. Why would you not do that? It great work you’re doing here, much more important than what many bullshit jobs are bringing to this world. So why would it not be justified to be paid for that? I’d make it part of your own ‘terms and conditions’ that I mentioned above, to include salaries in the project budget. Again, to be honest, I think that would be a much more legitimate way to earn a salary in stead of the the Patreon campaign, for example. That’s just my opinion of course, and I don’t have anything against Patreon, I see the potential in it. But if you can earn your own money with providing added value to people/companies that are willing to pay for it, I think that’s more admirable. In fact, it would allow your Patreon supporters to support other projects, if you don’t need it anymore, so that’s again another impact you can have!
My conclusion: go for it, do it, hack capitalism/corporatism and put it to good use 😉
Oh, but what I forgot to add: I do think it’s great that you’re asking yourself, and the community, this question. It shows the importance you give it, and to me, that give confidence that you’d do it in a legitimate way. So not just greenwashing and selling your soul, but actually thinking it through, and getting the best possible result from it.
Thank you @faro360,
Your opinion is much appreciated and makes a lot of sense in many ways. Thanks for taking the time.
Follow my train of thoughts, in the bigger picture we are taking care of the mess created by big corporations (environmental, social, economic, cultural). Collaborating with them would make them stronger (look better, increase sale, access new audiences) one way or another (they wouldn’t work with us otherwise). Working with them might give us some immediate benefits (some money and maybe more recycling centers) but in the long run we would have to deal with even greater work to be done due to the increased power and mess created (which we helped) from those corporations.
Can you see the theoretical hypocrisy here?
Maybe breaking away from this system altogether could result in greater impact? Hacking or partnering with it will just reinforce it. Definitely more work up front but possibly greater impact if manage to find a way not to depend on evil forces.
Just some thoughts..
Well, I think the ‘devil is in the details’.
The precise nature and history of the said corporation(s) matter. And the nature of the collaboration as well. I would not respond with a definite no to all invitations.
I’d want to speak directly with the proponents, discuss options and get it all clearly in writing.
Transparency and caution might be fruitful.
Or not. But at least we’d learn something. And make that greenwashing public too.
My 2 cents…
I agree with @lu that if you get to talk to the right people, and can define a project where your own needs are met, it makes much more sense to do it than to not do it.
@mattia-io: I can totally relate to your train of thoughts, and it’s a complicated matter for sure 🙂 I also wanted to add, that I’m convinced that our world is actually changing and so are the big ‘evil’ corps. I think they too realise that sustainability is not just important, it’s inevitable. So if you work with them, yes indeed you may make them stronger, but if it’s stronger in a good way as in more sustainable (so not just greenwashing) than that’s a great thing to accomplish with Precious Plastic. In fact, it may even have much more impact in the end than what the machines itself can have.
For example: a project with Coca Cola where you can convince them to use a different type of plastic or bottle or… because it’s easier to recycle, or a better post-consumer collection system for their product,… something like that would have an enormous potential impact on plastic waste. And yes, it makes them stronger as a brand. But stronger as a green(er) brand, not a greenwashed brand.
just my two cents 🙂 But as you can see I’m quite passionate about stuff like this.
On one hand, I would say: “Stand on your own, there are probably alternative ways to grow.”
On another hand, I see two situations where the partnership would make sense:
– If the company that wants to associate their name with you is already “green”. For instance, if Starbucks or Tesla approaches you, it might not destroy your image.
– The main goal of Precious Plastic is to recycle plastic, right? So it would make sense to use this recycled plastic to replace new plastic (thus limiting the production of new plastic). And big corporations are the main users of plastic. Therefore, selling recycled plastic to them does not seem silly to me.
I would say no to pure greenwashing. Even though Faro360 has a point about the impact that could result from it.
Hello, if you were going to have a corporate backer/3rd party funding than i would choose carefully. Going with corporations such as coca-cola or nestle will do more harm than good but if you were to team up with Feunix (example) then it would be positive on many fronts. Feunix recycles plastic back to raw material and the factory doesn’t use outside resources to operate but instead uses the energy release from their process of recycling plastic. I come with this example because the “industry” uses 80-90% newly created plastic vs 10-20% recycled plastic. In other words, recycling doesn’t solve major problems because of the newly created plastic. This factory closes the loop by bringing it back to raw material, creating an endless loop where is is no longer needed to create plastic from newly created raw material but instead from raw material gained out of recycling. This stops the circle of waste and thus would be a possible good corporation to collaborate with in whatever front. Dutch news article on this: https://www.rtlz.nl/business/ondernemers/plastic-afval-nutteloos-deze-fabriek-maakt-er-een-grondstof-van
As someone who has partnered corporates specifically in order to develop and roll-out solutions to conservation and poverty – this is definitely worth doing but only if you do it with the right partners and with the right conditions. Unfortunately corporates are here to stay whether we like it or not. If you can change the behaviour of those corporates then all the better. Some things just aren’t going to disappear overnight even though we want them to – and plastic is one. A really good due diligence process is key. Understanding motives and being clear about overlapping objectives is also key. “Greenwashing” is a real risk – but if you have the right partner and/or are careful then the communications reach and budget that they have can really help you to get your message out and drive behaviour change on a much larger scale. With time I hope we can start to shift corporates to move away from plastic packaging and innovate other ideas – those things are happening and many of the corporates that you mentioned are trying. Some ideas are greenwashing (e.g. starch-based plastics). Other ideas are better. but they’ll take time to roll out – and some just won’t work in the context of poverty where cost is a real barrier to more sustainably packaged materials. So in the mean time we need to deal with the cr&p before it gets into the oceans. Good luck and if you’d like to share notes I’d be happy to. One good example of a good partnership is net-works.com – check it out.
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