The reuse of products in a system of continuous purpose is intrinsically resilient. Designed and made for durability in which each repeated use does not require new raw materials or manufacture, reusable packaging products like pallets, bins, and containers break the recurring dependency on resource availability and consumption. Reusable products can always be ready for their intended service.
The goal of resiliency is at the forefront of ideals behind the popular catchphrase “Build Back Better,” which is used today to frame reconstructive action in response to damages from COVID-19 [UN, OECD, WRI]. The call for improvement through effective rebuilding is far-reaching, using the pandemic crisis and learnings to spur transformative action on climate change, education, inequality, and even reinvention of capitalism, for example. “Build Back Better” is also now used to brand a U.S. presidential candidate’s economic plan; politics has a way of seizing the moment.
It should be recognized that “Build Back Better” is not a new slogan originating from COVID-19. Credit for the phrase’s introduction traces back to disaster recovery after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami when the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former US President Bill Clinton, released its 2006 report offering “Key Propositions for Building Back Better.” Since then “Build Back Better” has become a mantra for post-disaster reconstruction programs.
In the larger scope, the notion of “Build Back Better” is about building community resiliencies to minimize physical, social, environmental, and economic vulnerabilities and shocks from future disasters. With regards to COVID-19, policy aims for resiliency focus on strengthening healthcare services, disadvantaged populations, and economic stability. Businesses are working to fix disruptions in the production and supply of goods that led to inventory shortages, revealing susceptible raw material sourcing, weak links in the supply chain, and poor records of inventories. Market responses were slow to dramatic shifts in product and location demands.
A post-COVID-19 rebuild can address the liabilities and inefficiencies of the global supply chain while also creating new opportunities for social advancement, environmental protection, and economic growth. One promising path forward to improve supply chain resiliency is to accelerate the shift towards circular economy principles, “which can act both to improve resource efficiency and resilience for businesses (by building greater resilience to supplier risks) and society (by reducing environmental risks)” [OECD].
In a circular economy, “innovative reuse business models can offer significant user and business benefits that together can help deliver a more resilient and low-carbon economic recovery” [Ellen MacArthur Foundation]. Responding to waste and pollution concerns from single-use plastic packaging, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation recognizes that reuse business models can enhance material productivity, unlock significant economic benefits, and help to tackle pollution while being safely used during COVID-19 and beyond.
As companies seek to combine COVID-19 recovery efforts with actions and policies on other critical sustainable development needs, building resiliencies for future safeguarding against risk is a common goal across all initiatives. The reuse of products should be a central component in a plan to achieve resiliency and to build back better.
President & CEO
Reusable Packaging Association