National Geographic Wages War On Single-Use Plastics


In 2015—National Geographic’s 127th year in operation—the company decided to completely revamp their business model. They increased investments in science, merged their print, digital, and broadcast storytelling assets, and integrated their media business in order to scale up their international presence, creating a “purpose driven, global media-megaphone.” According to the World Value Index, a ranking of major brands’ ability to inspire consumers, they’re now the 3rd most influential for-profit business, right behind behemoths Amazon and Google. 

Harnessing their social influence, National Geographic has launched a “Planet or Plastic” initiative, a multi-year effort aimed at combating the global plastic crisis. The plan is to reduce single-use plastic, like straws and grocery bags, which frequently end up in oceans. In addition to awareness campaigns, National Geographic has pledged that, beginning in June, subscribers to the print magazine in the US, UK, and India will receive their copy wrapped in paper instead of plastic. This small change will save 2 1/2 million single-use plastic bags every month; by the end of 2019, they plan to extend paper wrapping to all global editions.

We believe that when people understand the world around them, they care more deeply and take responsibility for it.

Jill Cress, CMO of National Geographic Brands and WORLDZ Master, outlined the company’s ambitious plan earlier this month during a conference in Vancouver, BC. Her 13 minute keynote covered the storied history of National Geographic’s brand influence, their various initiatives, and the ways the company has marshaled their massive social reach to promote conservation habits.

Sustainable Brands conference in Vancouver, BC. Image by Sustainable Brands.

According to Cress, National Geographic is looking to “…partner with like-minded corporations and organizations that are also committed to raising awareness about the enormity of the plastic issue.” To reach out, contact information can be found by scrolling to the bottom of National Geographic’s website.