Yesterday Google announced on it's blog, that "Starting in 2022, 100 percent of Made by Google products will include recycled materials with a drive to maximize recycled content wherever possible." So soon, the Google Pixel or Nest thermostat you buy might be made from recycled milk cartons or tires. That's the message as Google, like a lot of tech companies, has been taking a long, hard look at the impact its hardware products have on the environment.
Considering that most smartphones, for example, are designed to be replaced by consumers every few years as new models come out, all of those old devices start to pile up. And the companies that make them are starting to become far more aware of the perception that they might be contributing more than they'd like to the destruction of the planet.
Google's plan might sound radical at first. Except, it turns out that it's one of those promises that sounds like more than it probably is. It sounds like that means Google is using recycled materials to build 100 percent of its smartphones, and Google Home devices, and Chromecasts. But that's not exactly what's happening.
Really what Google is promising is that It will use at least some recycled materials in at least some component in every device it makes. Which means that while the statement made by the company is factual, it's a bit confusing, and perhaps ambiguous enough to let you assume more than it really means.
Saying that each, or every one, of your products will contain recycled materials is a lot different than saying that the entirety of your products will be made from recycled materials (which, in the case of tech gadgets, isn't even possible anyway).
Google is also promising to make its supply chain for all of its products carbon neutral by sometime in 2020, moving shipments from air-freight to cargo ships.
Playing catch up.
Here's the thing: Google is already far behind most of its industry peers. Apple, after years of criticism over the environmental impact of its products, has long made a point of using recycled materials in its products. It has also had a program that allows users to turn in old devices to be recycled, and has run all of its facilities on renewable energy since 2018.
And Google's other big smartphone-- sometimes-partner, sometimes competitor-- Samsung, started using sustainable materials in its packaging this year.
So, really what Google is saying is, "hey, we're doing something to show that even though we're way behind, we're trying."
It would be like an automaker putting out a statement saying "we're committed to using power steering in all of our vehicles within three years."
We're kind of past the point where that's a big deal. It's actually just expected at this point.
In fact, in Google's case, it's probably a bigger deal that it wasn't using recycled materials in more of its products by now.
Don't make a big deal.
You know, sometimes it's better to just do the right thing, instead of making a big deal about doing the right thing. Sometimes it's better if people just notice, instead of making an announcement.
Here's a general rule: do the right thing for the right reason, not for the PR.
You don't get credit for doing the right thing just because you wrote a blog post announcing you're going to do the right thing. In fact, you'll often come off as just looking for a pat on the back, which, unless you're doing something really big, is just kind of obnoxious.
Look, give Google a little credit for doing the right thing to help protect the planet and become a more environmentally sustainable company. That's always a good thing, even if it doesn't need an announcement.
But, if you make an announcement about a big change you're making to your business or your products, you should probably actually be making a big change. And it should probably be a change that does more than simply inch you closer to the status quo.