Batteries not included

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When I was kid there were no three words more disheartening on birthdays and at Christmas than “batteries not included.”

If we had any batteries in the house they would be in my Dad’s drawer – the one reserved for things that did not belong anywhere else.

In amongst the broken reading glasses, screw cap light bulbs and discontinued currencies there would sometimes be a handful of slightly leaking Ever Ready batteries.

But it was rarely enough to power whatever short-lived electronic gizmo I had requested as a present from the Argos catalogue.

Eventually I started asking Santa for a pack of Duracells, just in case.

These days things are different. Batteries tend to be not only included but also to be built into devices so they can be recharged.

This is not just good news for small children; it is good for the environment too.

Growing up I must have thrown away hundreds of AA batteries as I exhausted them listening to mixtapes on the bus home from school.

My kids just plug their phones into the wall when they need more juice.

But Apple and most other leading consumer brands are still a long way from being green, thanks to the environmental impact of their supply chains.

“Consumers – particularly Millennials – increasingly say they want brands that embrace purpose and sustainability,” according to a recent report by Harvard Business School.

“Yet a frustrating paradox remains at the heart of green business: Few consumers who report positive attitudes toward eco-friendly products and services follow through with their wallets.”

The report goes onto say, “Unilever estimates that almost 70% of its greenhouse gas footprint depends on which products customers choose and whether they use and dispose of them in a sustainable manner—for example, by conserving water and energy while doing the laundry or recycling containers properly after use.”

If you think this sounds a lot like the company blaming its customers then you would be right.

But the truth is we do need to change our behaviour, and we need the brands we buy from to present us with better options. Batteries included.

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column by Guy Cookson on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post. See our brand, web design and marketing recent projects.

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