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TMRE: The Market Research Event

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October 8-10, 2024
Loews Royal Pacific ResortOrlando, FL

Influencing Social Change

All Things Insights’ Seth Adler sat down to discuss the power of insights when focused on social issues with Justin Coates, Eastman’s Head of Global Market Research & Consumer Insights. Coates is bringing his expertise to bear on the global waste crisis in the TMRE session, “Recycling Revolution Leveraging the VoC to Shape the Public Debate on Molecular Recycling.”

Insights into the waste crisis can help stimulate change, says Coates, whose Eastman responsibilities include leading business intelligence, customer experience, user experience, foresighting and consumer insights across the company.

An issue of focus for Coates, as part of his responsibilities, is recycling and an approach to it that can address the real concerns expressed by people in the street and in national capitals.

“I think as an insights community, we love to geek out on all things, art and science, of insight generation,” Coates says. “But we don't always talk about the outcomes.”

For the most part, the great insights and stories developed provide a means of reaching certain specific ends, such as growing the company's bottom line by a certain percentage, or launching a cool product people love, or getting people to adopt a new behavior, Coates says. Those ends are fine and productive. However, insights can bear on other dynamics that are critical to society today such as sustainability and, as part of that, establishing sustainable waste practices.

“What I'm really talking about are what you'd call changemaker insights: How do you leverage insights to change and shape the sustainability strategies of some of the largest global brands that have an influence around the world. Or how do you change the mindset of government or NGOs around topics related to tackling the global waste crisis. My hope is, in the session, people come away with the knowledge that insights not only can drive business growth but also can be a part of changing the world,” says Coates.

A specific example is one that can demonstrate how insights into social needs can generate new ways of approaching a challenge.

Coates continues, “If we think about recycling, there's relatively two types. The first, I think most people are familiar with, which is mechanical recycling, where waste is collected in certain types and shredded, melted down and created into new products. And there’s definitely a home for mechanical recycling. But that doesn't address all the types of plastics. So there are different forms of recycling, one which Eastman is definitely investing in called molecular recycling. So instead of kind of shredding it up, melting it down, you're actually taking plastic down to the molecular level, and being able to use that to create brand new products that don't compromise on performance. So what I'm going be talking about is consumers' reactions to this concept. We know that the waste crisis is a top-tier environmental concern among consumers around the world in a time where we have a very polarized country in the U.S., but also in other regions.”

The waste crisis is, when examined, an issue that actually cuts across generations and political divides, Coates says.

“If you're looking for something that unites Gen Zers with Boomers, talk about the waste crisis,” he contends. “They really care about that. And the positive reaction, the enthusiasm around this solution is something that's been very powerful as we bring that to global brands to NGOs to legislators to get their buy-in on what we're trying to do.”

See the video for more on Seth Adler’s conversation with Justin Coates, as they discuss how insights can advance social change.