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Plastic pioneers

In response to the global plastic problem, colleagues in Germany have pledged to reduce their plastic consumption as part of Capgemini’s #RethinkPlastic campaign

When it comes to plastic, the world has a major, long-term problem. It’s estimated that it might take 200 years for a single plastic straw to decompose in the ocean. For a single plastic bottle cap, the same process might take 1,000 years. Combined together, there are 150 million tonnes of plastic circulating in our marine environments – and another eight million are added each year.

Capgemini believes that solving this global issue goes beyond cleaning up the natural environment. What it requires is stopping the problem at the source – by ‘turning off the tap’. It is one reason why, as part of our #RethinkPlastic campaign, we’ve made a global commitment to reducing our plastic consumption. If every plastic straw counts, then even small changes in behavior can contribute towards the bigger impact required to safeguard the environment.

We want to make a contribution to tackling one of the highest-profile environmental problems of our time. The actions of colleagues right across Capgemini are key to this effort.’

Germany’s ‘plastic ambassadors’

As part of this effort, colleagues across the world are making a commitment to reduce their plastic consumption. Matthias Wolf, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Capgemini Germany, says that a team of ‘plastic ambassadors’ is leading efforts in the region.

“Here in Germany, we’ve committed to reducing plastic by thinking differently about single-use kitchen items, branded merchandise, disposable water bottles, and purchases we make from suppliers,” says Matthias. “Some of our colleagues have made a “plastic pledge” to make reducing their use of plastic a top priority, and being more conscious about their buying decisions.”

Karen Görner, a test analyst based in Erfurt, is one of those ambassadors. She was motivated to get involved in the campaign after hearing about the harm plastic was causing to marine life. “Reports of animals dying from eating plastic moved me to change my habits,” she says. “One way of avoiding plastic is by using toothpaste tabs in paper packaging and a bamboo toothbrush.”

Another ambassador, Thomas Wehr, who is a business analyst based in Berlin, has reduced the amount of plastic he uses by changing his eating habits. He says: “Bringing home-cooked lunch to work in my lunchbox ensures I eat a more balanced diet as well as avoiding pointless plastic waste.”

Small actions make big changes

While the statistics on plastic pollution seem daunting, at Capgemini we believe deeply in the power of individual actions to solve big problems. Mariam Chaari, a consultant based in Berlin, also a plastic ambassador, agrees. “By changing nothing, nothing changes,” she says. “If everyone makes a small, individual contribution, we can change something. When it comes to plastic, I reflect on my behavior and try to use alternatives.”

As part of the campaign, the team in Germany has held a competition in 2019 to collect ideas on how to avoid plastic in work and home life, with colleagues rewarded with metal straws, cookbooks and metal bento boxes. Meanwhile, the team has introduced ‘plastic-free Fridays’, and sourced 4,000 food bags for fruits and vegetables to replace plastic ones, which have been given to all colleagues in the last month.

Matthias sums up the spirit of the campaign, while acknowledging the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: “As a business, we want to make a contribution to tackling one of the highest-profile environmental problems of our time. The COVID-19 crisis will pose new challenges to how we achieve this, but our core drive to reduce unnecessary waste is here to stay. The actions of colleagues right across Capgemini are key to this effort. I want to thank them all for getting involved, and urge everyone to #RethinkPlastic.”

Capgemini teams across different regions have contributed to this campaign. For example, the team in India ran a series of behavioral change initiatives in which colleagues were urged to bring their own bottles to work. Also, they were persuaded to avoid single-use water bottles through an event called the ‘Bottle Cap Challenge’; all 110,000 colleagues in India were then provided with a reusable steel bottle. Capgemini Brazil did a similar exercise in which all colleagues were provided with a sustainability kit containing a squeeze bottle, a mug and a sustainable ‘ecobag’. Meanwhile, in Europe, colleagues in the UK have introduced a high-capacity cleaning system to replace the need for plastic cleaning bottles, while Capgemini Netherlands has introduced biodegradable stirrers, straws, cutlery and water bottles. Combined together, such simple changes as these can all help to make a big difference.