In September 2010, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) announced the launch of the Plastic Disclosure Project to publicly track and report businesses’ plastic use.
The concept is very familiar to the already implemented Carbon Disclosure Project, an online database where thousands of international organizations annually disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies.
The Plastic Disclosure Project would survey companies on the types and quantities of plastic used in their operations and distribution processes as well as their overarching goals and management plans when it comes to their use of plastic. CGI’s goal is that the results of these surveys be used not only by the companies themselves, but also managers and investors at other firms and businesses when considering how to save money, whether efficiency could be improved with new packaging designs, and if material restrictions are necessary.
When enough of this information reliably gathered and made public, the hope is that it will be utilized in all the major financial and policy-making decisions at companies, leading to reduced negative environmental, waste and health impacts around the world.
CGI has already secured $5 trillion in investments for the Plastic Disclosure Project, with the survey managed by Project Kaisei and Kaisei’s partners, The Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Doug Woodring, co-founder and director of Project Kaisei, points out that the severity of the harm plastic has done to us and our environment we are only now coming to understand. “Global consumption of plastic has outstripped our infrastructure in waste management,” Woodring says.
The first survey is scheduled for the first half of 2011, and Credit Suisse, a financial services company that advises businesses around the world, has already agreed to include plastic-related strategies and issues in their analysis of the environmental and social impacts of portfolio companies. Additionally, questionnaires will be circulated on behalf of the investors to a global list of corporates, especially in sectors which are identified as having significant plastic footprints.
It’s crucial that businesses take major steps toward more responsible manufacturing and management of plastics, since their actions and decisions so often drive those of consumers. Traditional plastics are hazardous to the environment and humans’ health because they have such a long lifespan; they break down into ever smaller pieces but never fully return to natural elements. The organization Rise Above Plastics says, “With the exception of a small amount that has been incinerated, virtually every piece of plastic that has even been produced still exists in some shape or form.”
The solution to the plastic pollution issue involves effectively using and reusing no more than we absolutely need and reducing the amount of non-biodegradable plastic that ends up in the environment. Companies who commit to the Plastic Disclosure Project will be leading an example to other companies and the public that simple actions like supporting biodegradable packaging, for example, ENSO Bottles, can add up to make a huge, positive change.
For more information on CGI, visit the organization online here.