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SUNCHIPS®: Loud Bags Are Not Sustainable

With Three Ps, sustainability is a win-win-win for people, planet and profit, right?  If business leaders and consumers look deep enough, they’ll find that what’s good for the environment and people will help the bottom line, and vice versa, right?  Some believe it’s always possible to find the win-win-win.  Apparently, none of those people eat snack foods, however.

The Internet, consumer marketing and sustainability worlds are buzzing with discussion about Frito-Lay’s decision to discontinue use of biodegradable packaging for most of its SUNCHIPS® brand Multigrain Snacks. Part of the marketing pitch for the snacks has been that the packaging is biodegradable. The problem is that, as a result, the bag is TOO LOUD.  Consumers, many of whom presumably valued the bag’s biodegradability, have complained and the packaging is being changed to more traditional packaging.

Critics are charging that Frito-Lay’s decision is an overreaction; a sign of “supercapitalism,” an emerging, derogatory term coined by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. According to Reich, the problem is that organizations and individuals have become obsessed with consumption and profits over all other considerations.

For me, the SUNCHIPS story is a sign of the real world, where sustainability is part of the mix but rarely the deciding factor. In the real world, even with something as trivial as a noisy snack bag, few people will put environmental footprint ahead of all other considerations, which include comfort, convenience, aesthetics, cost, safety and so on. That is exactly what the Shelton Group has found in its EcoPulse studies. Be sure to read Suzanne Shelton’s latest blog post, The poor SUNCHIPS bag: a cautionary tale.

What other examples from everyday life can you think of?

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