The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution
The rapid accumulation of plastic pollution in ecosystems also impacts businesses. Public awareness of the issue is growing, and recent surveys identify it as one of the most important environmental threats. Many companies are facing increased reputational risks as more and more consumers demand effective responses from businesses across the plastic value chain. Moreover, employees are increasingly looking to work for firms with a positive purpose, investors are expecting firms to manage their plastic footprint responsibly, and regulators are promoting policies and legislation aimed at tackling the problem. It is no longer a question of whether regulation is coming, but what regulation is coming.
Given the urgency and scale of the challenge, and the need to amplify current efforts, a new and more ambitious approach is required. A UN treaty on plastic pollution, whereby governments commit to a coordinated set of actions and policies, could catalyze a comprehensive global effort to address the problem at scale, and help put the world on a path toward a circular economy for plastics. It would establish the international framework for both governments and companies to move decisively in the right direction. The objective of such a treaty should be to eliminate plastic leakage into the ocean by a specific date. Critical elements of the treaty should include:
- Harmonized regulatory standards and common definitions across markets
- Clear national targets and action plans that aggregate to deliver on the treaty’s overarching objective
- Common reporting metrics and methodologies across the plastic value chain
- Coordinated investment approaches to support infrastructure development in key markets and innovation
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