Another Corporate Plastics Initiative? This One’s Actually Different.

One of the biggest environmental topics both in our current public dialogue and here at the Sustainable Brands conference from where I’m (Miro) reporting is that of plastic pollution. Already in the past year, several corporate commitments have been made with the stated goal of reducing plastics in the environment but can a multitude of company initiatives actually solve the problem? That’s the question I had when I learned more about the new WWF-lead initiative called ReSource which was launched to help companies measure, analyze and stay accountable to their corporate plastics commitments. 

The founding members of ReSource include Coca-Cola, Keurig Dr Pepper, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, and Tetra Pak, which together represent a significant portion of global consumer plastic usage.

What’s different about ReSource from other commitments is that it will serve to provide metrics, data analysis, and a common language so that companies can standardize their commitments to things like plastics recycling, recycling innovation, and creating closed-loop systems for plastics items. As WWF described it, ReSource will be “a hub for creating and measuring action.” As part of the requirement to join the group, companies have to share data and give progress reports on their plastic-reduction efforts — allowing for independent observers to see what is working, and what’s not–all of which will be shared with the public. 

But What About All the Other Environmental Issues? That was a question that was asked of the founding partners as people are concerned that if plastics become the primary focus for corporate sustainability efforts that other issues like climate change and biodiversity will be ignored.

  • Proctor and Gamble’s Chief Sustainability Officer Virginie Helias noted that the issue of plastic can be used to leverage all other issues of relevance. Plastics are having their moment but they are a good way to mobilize the public on matters of conservation and climate action as they’re starting to see themselves as caring about the environment. She was vehement in saying that she has no desire to become the “Chief Plastics Officer” at her company.

The More, The Merrier: Elisabeth Comere who serves as Director of Customer Sustainability at Tetra Pak explained that there are countless elements that go into rethinking and reducing plastic packaging. There are unintended consequences–for instance, if you switch to paper straws where is that paper being sourced, is it leading to deforestation? She said that the value of ReSoruce for her company is the collaboration that comes with major companies sharing best practices and innovation, the alliance will help companies cover blind spots. Now the goal will be to get even more companies to join and commit to measuring their accountability. 

Is Recycling That Effective? Bruce Karas, VP of Environment and Sustainability at Coca Cola mentioned that Americans don’t have a lot of trust that what they put in a recycling bin isn’t just being hauled to a landfill. Companies through the products they sell must invest in recycling infrastructure, innovation (such as the Closed Loop Fund), but also communicate to their customers through their products that the empty container they put in a bin will, in fact, be recycled and made part of a closed-loop system.

Why This Matters: Something I hear many times during the conference from corporate leaders was that as a species, we have the ability to solve the plastic pollution crisis but it will take not just commitment but accountability by the companies that can have the most impact. P&G’s Virginie Helias explained that climate change has metrics and measures of accountability that keep governments and institutions accountable, the effort to solve plastic pollution in nature needs the same framework to succeed and that’s what ReSource offers. WWF’s Erin Simon told me that simply, plastics don’t belong anywhere in nature and it’s her hope that ReSource is a good mechanism to help us course correct and allow companies to truly work together rather than act in tandem.

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