“Plastic doesn’t work. It is a design failure."
Those are the words of Cyrill Gutsch, Founder and CEO of Parley for the Oceans, who gave a passionate and insightful presentation at our most recent Champions for Change event in San Franciscio.
Champions for Change is SailGP’s thought leadership programme where leaders and sustainability champions talk about their approach to tackling the climate crisis and share valuable insights and learnings, and Gutsch expertly outlined his organisation's aims and strategies for protecting the oceans.
Founded in 2012, Parley for the Oceans was earlier this season announced as #RaceForTheFuture Purpose Partner for the Australia SailGP Team, having previously impacted Adidas to end the use of single-use plastic in its offices and partnered with the likes of G-Star Raw, Porter magazine and Stella McCartney.
Parley's 'AIR' - Avoid, Intercept, Redesign - strategy is the central tenet of the organisation's battle against plastic pollution, as explained by Gutsch ahead of the Season 2 Grand Final in San Francisco last month.
"After the digital revolution we need a material revolution," said Gutsch. "We need to let go of exploitation, toxic and harmful materials, and destructive design. Parley is designed for that. We are designed to implement a strategy called ‘AIR’ - Avoid, Intercept and Redesign - which means short-, mid- and long-term impact.
“Short-term: Get out there and save lives. Direct response. When there is a crisis let’s get out there and save as many lives as you can, and document it very well. Use that documentation to run global campaigns to change people’s minds.
“That brings us to education and communication. Today, plastic is the symbol of broken trust in an old technology. We now know that plastic goes into our blood, and that there are serious illnesses associated with that material. It is an old tech, but it is outdated. It was great for a moment in time; it saved a lot of animals, it saved trees… fossil fuels saved the whales!
“Education and communication is a big piece, and then we go to Material Science and Product Fiction, because I can’t go to a company and ask them to stop using fossil fuels and plastic and all these other toxic chemicals being used in the supply chain if I cannot offer them something in return. And that is our job at Parley.
“Plastic doesn’t work. It is a design failure. Recycling wasn’t meant to work; it was always more of an alibi to keep making more plastic.”
While the fight again plastic pollution is key to Parley's strategy, the goal is a much bigger one.
"The mission is to make peace," Gutsch continued. "The mission is to make peace between humans and nature - the oceans especially.
“Because we are at war. We are not only at war with our own species - we are killing life at a rapid speed.
“In 2020 we said, ‘In the next ten years we are going to change the world. We have to, otherwise we are all going down’, because we entered the sixth mass extinction event with 400 species disappearing every day.
“So if we are true to our word and we speak about the next seven years, how can we change the world? How can we change our human world? How can we change our role on this planet, within seven years?
“I am not driven by money; I am driven by success - and I want to make people successful because I know that is important. But my goal is to solve big environmental issues.
"Our business is to end the destruction by transforming the economy, because all the environmental issues today are caused by the way we are doing business. By the way we, as consumers, are making daily decisions.
“That’s why Parley is based on the idea that we need to redesign the core reason for these crises we are facing.”