Some things are bigger than politics. I think most would agree saving the planet is one of them.
It really doesn't matter whether you think global warming is man-made, exists at all or is a figment of Al Gore's imagination. I suspect most would agree maximizing our vital natural resources, reducing waste and pollution, and improving our recycling rates are all worthwhile business and environmental goals.
That means all parties in the supply chain should minimize the polarizing effects of highly partisan political rhetoric when dealing with vendors, partners, customers and clients. There simply is little to gain by politicizing such discussions, especially when such views have no significant impact on the business at hand.
Of course, the recent silly season, err … U.S. presidential campaign, thrust politics to the forefront for the past few months and made it difficult to have a conversation without lapsing into debate about politics. But the people have spoken, the results are in and it's time to move on.
I humbly offer my advice equally to persons of all political persuasions. But let me focus for a moment on a group near and dear to my heart: industrial designers. At the risk of generalizing, many of these innovative, creative types tend to lean to the left ideologically.
I long have advocated that plastics manufacturers — from executives to engineers — should do a better job of engaging designers early in the product development process to enhance product attributes while trying to control costs. When it happens, such increased dialogue typically benefits all involved.
Stimulating early involvement can be challenging enough. It can become even more so when one party or the other wears its political inclinations on its sleeve. A well-regarded designer spoke at a recent conference and delivered a powerful, positive, unifying message urging participants across all segments of industry and academia to strive to enhance the understanding and implementation of green design and sustainability. But the same speaker also tossed in several light-hearted but highly partisan comments that served only to detract from the message and most likely undermine its credibility among a strongly conservative manufacturing audience.
Meantime, while I don't mean to pick on a fellow editor, I simply cannot ignore this other, timely example. In the October/November issue of I.D. Magazine, which bills itself as “The International Design Magazine,” editor-in-chief Julie Lasky offered a pre-election essay titled “Barack Obama for President” that was said to represent the views of the magazine's editors.
Now it is hardly unusual for publications to endorse candidates, and in a well-written piece, Lasky makes some relevant points about business, design and the current administration. But then she lets loose with both barrels, to include the following concluding passage:
“Whether an Obama White House will be good for design professionals is still a matter of speculation and extrapolation. Obama's values — thoughtfulness, lucidity, and humanity; an open commitment to a better-functioning world — are in alignment with design's. George W. Bush proved that you can get elected, but you can't hide from the consequences of duplicity and contempt. Dick Cheney proved that being a maverick doesn't always make for healthy governance. John McCain may not have learned these lessons, but we have. It's time to toss out the failed models of 21st-century leadership and move on.”
I'm not saying whether I agree or disagree with Lasky. I could tell you who I voted for, but I fear that by doing so my message would immediately color your view of my comments and cause my intended message to be swallowed up by a partisan reaction. And that, in effect, is my point.
To be most effective, designers often need to work directly with engineers, mold makers, manufacturers and brand owners, many of whom may not share their political views. Of course, the opposite holds true, as well.
For the sake of issues such as reducing waste and advancing sustainability, all parties must do everything they can to promote the common cause and work together. That will be best accomplished if each person checks his or her strongly held political views at the door when their aim is to engage others in the dialogue of making products that are better for this world.
Robert Grace is Plastics News editor and associate publisher.