Posted on August 15, 2022
The overall puzzle of ocean restoration is complex; but to Dow, it is clear that organized cleanups are one of the most important pieces — because they can create a spark that will ignite the type of passion it takes to drive change.
Many sustainability-interested individuals know about the benefits of beach cleanups when it comes to intercepting waste before it reaches waterways, but have you considered what happens after the trash is collected and the volunteers head home for the day? The initial impact starts a ripple effect that makes big waves in the fight for cleaner waterways.
A study published in SAGE showed that beach cleanups are associated with positive moods, pro-environmental intentions and higher marine awareness following organized events. It’s no wonder that, according to the Keep America Beautiful 2020 Litter Study, roadside litter has decreased in the US throughout the past decade as sustainability education and initiatives gain momentum. The more people who get involved and inspired, the more supporters can influence sustainable behavior at scale.
Indeed, the problem is daunting. With 8 million tons of plastic in the ocean and even more winding up on beaches every day, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and disheartened. However, as we reflect on recent events such as World Ocean Day, the UN Ocean Summit and all related efforts to combat environmental harm, it’s important to remember that when people act for change together, they can and do make a difference. That’s why Dow continues to rally employees and communities around the shared goal of protecting our ocean and environment at large.
Education and collaboration: Key ingredients for meaningful action
Employers are in an excellent position to bring people together for change. Survey results from the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer show that people believe businesses can be “competent and effective drivers of positive change.” By making their purpose clear and rallying their teams, companies can build brigades of employee volunteers to work toward causes that matter. Not only can this expand the impact of sustainability efforts, it can also give companies significant competitive advantages.
One study by Kantar tracked companies’ value growth over 12 years and saw that those the public perceived as “highly impactful” more than doubled the brand value growth of those with a low positive impact. And, like consumers, employees are growing more and more purpose driven: Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey showed that workers today seek high impact, along with culture and diversity, over financial benefits.
Dow believes in the value of volunteerism and providing sustainability-based education around responsible waste management to employees, communities, customers and key stakeholders. The #PullingOurWeight campaign, now in its fifth year, is an example of our initiatives to promote collaboration and education for environmental change. We started the campaign in 2018 to engage people in beach and waterway cleanups across the globe while providing information about responsible waste management and promoting a circular economy for plastics — and keep waste out of our oceans, rivers and streams.
Expanding the impact through communities and beyond
The more people who understand the problem and feel driven to address it, the more momentum and influence environmentalists will have to encourage companies and individuals to innovate around larger-scale cleanup efforts. That’s why Dow collaborates across the value chain to engage customers, suppliers and distributors (including Arcadis, Kelly, Jacobs, Resinex and more) to promote responsible waste management, protect our ocean and lead toward the greater good of the environment at large.
In 2021 alone, Dow and all #PullingOurWeight participants achieved the following:
- Hosted 195 community cleanups in 32 countries with 7,485 participants helping remove 387,513 pounds of waste from the environment, 11.27 percent of which was recycled.
- Joined the Alliance to End Plastic Waste’s Clean4Change Challenge, using the Literati app to track the collection of 20,287 pieces of waste by Team Dow.
And as part of its 125th Anniversary, Dow held its most significant and coordinated global effort, the first-ever Global Volunteer Serve-a-thon, in May. More than 700 volunteers engaged in campaign activities and collected over 4,000 pounds of waste, 12 percent of which was recycled.
Of course, Dow and its employees aren’t the only ones creating the ripple effect. Afroz Shah, for instance, is known for the largest beach cleanup project in the world. From 2015 to 2018, he and 200,000 volunteers cleaned up Versova Beach in Mumbai. Like many people doing sustainability work, Shah can trace his efforts back to a specific moment that caught his attention and spurred him into action: When he moved to the Versova Beach community as an adult, he realized how drastically different it looked from when he played there as a child — the beach was now covered in trash. But once he started cleaning up waterways, he didn’t stop. After Versova was clean, he continued his efforts to grow a movement and launch a foundation dedicated to inspiring people around the world to clean up their surroundings. He’s partnered with various organizations, including Dow, in his efforts.
Similarly, Trash Caulin is a well-known TikTok personality with more than 1 million followers. His current goal is to document picking up trash off the beach every day in 2022, and he educates his followers and inspires them to get involved. Along with fun and effective ideas such as the “trunk of treasures” — to collect plastic toys before they end up in the ocean, so other kids can play with them — he also partners with brands and local organizations to expand his impact.
And then there’s Mr. Trash Wheel, a simple machine that intercepts waste before it makes its way to the ocean. The technology’s inventor spent 20 years working along the waterfront in Baltimore (a city that falls behind the national average for recycling) after seeing the amount of trash that piled up daily. Now, Mr. Trash Wheel is a well-known and beloved symbol of sustainability in the community.
Many larger organizations are innovating for change, too. The Ocean Cleanup, for example, is working on research and development to create an open ocean cleanup system that doesn’t catch sea life or require towing by large vessels. Another, World Bank PROBLUE, is working to improve solid waste management and circular economy development in South Africa, with the intent to set a standard for neighboring countries.
The list of people and organizations making an impact goes on and on. The point is that education sparks awareness and inspiration, and inspiration and collaboration combine to accelerate real change. Beach cleanups are just one catalyst that can set that process into motion.
#PullingOurWeight is designed for large-scale impact
Dow inspires individuals and organizations to expand their waste cleanup efforts by joining the #PullingOurWeight Pledge. By doing so, people commit to working collaboratively with their company and partners to volunteer and clean up the environment.
Once committed, participants can define a focal point within their organization, engage employees in an existing cleanup or sustainability-focused community event, or organize their own #PullingOurWeight event. Dow provides guidance and a virtual training session to review the critical elements of a successful and impactful event.
The campaign rallies people across the globe for waste cleanup and educational events, raising awareness and furthering engagement to address pollution on a widespread scale. Dow increases companywide #PullingOurWeight goals to maximize impact year after year and aims to inspire all participants to lead more sustainable lives.
The overall puzzle of ocean restoration is complex; but to Dow, it is clear that organized cleanups are one of the most important pieces because they can create a spark that will ignite the type of passion it takes to drive change.