Businesses have an important role to play in preventing plastic pollution, particularly as the manufacturers, designers, distributors and sellers of plastic products and packaging. Below are some ideas of how businesses can facilitate and drive effective plastics policy within industry.
Quantitative and time bound goals
Quantitative and time bound goals allow for transparent reporting and continuous progress
Goals that are time-bound and have clearly identified quantitative aims are more successful in multinational corporations and small medium enterprises. Such goals can create trust and buy in before broader and more visionary goals are created. Businesses should use targeted, time bound goals to allow for transparent reporting and continuous progress under an overarching vision to achieve systemic change in their organisation.
Considering the wider impacts is important for effective policy making
The scope and scale of policy objectives are similar between multinational corporations and small and medium enterprises. Understanding where to intervene in the plastic lifecycle is critical for achieving maximum plastic reduction. Most existing policies focus on increasing the recycled content of the packaging or product, or making the product itself recyclable. This relies on waste management infrastructure (and recycling in particular) to be able to supply the volume of recycled plastic needed. Creating more recyclable products pushes the burden of responsible disposal to the consumer, often with little evidence of activities undertaken to raise awareness, increase access or ease of recycling, or providing incentive to do so. If this approach is adopted, it must be supported by investment in recycling infrastructure and raising consumer awareness.
Meaningful engagement can identify potential barriers or constraints
Meaningful stakeholder engagement is essential when redesigning products or developing company solutions to plastic pollution. For multinational corporations, most existing policies focus on increasing the recycled content of products or packaging, rather than proposing viable, sustainable alternatives. Stakeholder engagement is essential to ensure that the changes to the product actually achieve plastic reduction. Thorough consumer research and stakeholder engagement is beneficial to identify potential problems with the proposed solution.
Innovation and partnerships
Partnerships and collaboration can facilitate new approaches to end plastic pollution
Partnerships and collaborations enable success across multiple policies. However, it is not clear if many of these partnerships still exist, or are still continuing. This represents a pattern identified across multinational corporations in that it is often difficult to identify if an initiative or project is ongoing or what progress has been made. In partnerships, small and medium enterprises can be the vehicle to deliver innovative, sustainable and specialised solutions that target specific elements of the plastic lifecycle. Small and medium enterprises benefit from the investment of multinational organisations.
Public awareness and education
Public awareness and education are imperative when implementing new policies, but must be matched with investment to infrastructure
Investing in public awareness and education is important, particularly where consumers are asked to choose between multiple products, or adopt new behaviours. It is also critical that associated infrastructure receives investment to support this. It is recommended that businesses view public awareness and education as a supporting tool to deliver policy, which must be undertaken with other activities, and not in isolation.
Increasing transparency is critical to ensure that lessons are learned and shared
Businesses should ensure that actions undertaken are transparent so other businesses can learn from their example — this will avoid duplication of efforts and demonstrate best practice. There is a wealth of experience from different business approaches to plastic policy, yet virtually none of this experience is available for other organisations to learn or develop from. To achieve this transparency, businesses could publish how successful different initiatives were, and the barriers and enablers of success.