Financial institutions push for Plastics Treaty to include corporate disclosure mandate

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These firms, including Legal and General Asset Management and Fidelity international, have made the call to action in an open letter delivered to policymakers on the eve of the next round of discussions to develop the Treaty.

After nations agreed on the broad terms of the Treaty last year, a first draft was published this September. But there are a great many details still to be decided upon and the next round of discussions are taking place at the UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, this week.

The Treaty could encourage or even require signatory nations to mandate plastics-related disclosures from businesses. Indeed, the UN biodiversity treaty ratified in December 2022 includes recommendations on corporate nature disclosures.

The letter is coordinated by CDP and states that comprehensive data is of “pivotal significance” when “tackling the environmental and financial risks associated with plastics”.

WWF has calculated that the externalised costs of plastic produced in 2019 alone stood at $3.7trn. It foresees this almost doubling $7trn in 2040 without concerted interventions.

The letter outlines a “strategic opportunity for businesses to scrutinise their environmental impact” and identify the gap between their current progress, future goals and global long-term objectives.

Disclosures should, the letter recommends, fully cover risks, opportunities, impacts and dependencies across the entire lifecycle of plastic products.

Voluntary disclosures

This spring, CDP opened a new function on its global environmental disclosure system, enabling companies to report their plastics production and use.

CDP called upon the 7,000 companies in plastics-intensive sectors already disclosing using its platform to upload data. Included in this cohort are chemicals firms, packaging suppliers, retailers, food and beverage firms and fashion brands. On this latter point, the global production of fossil-based synthetic textiles more than doubled between 2000 and 2020.

Today (13 November), CDP revealed that more than 3,100 companies are now using the plastic disclosure system. Early movers include Unilever and Johnson & Johnson.

Full findings regarding these initial disclousres will be published in spring 2024.

CDP’s global director for policy engagement and external affairs, Pietro Bertazzi, said: “More than 3,000 companies disclosing their plastic-related information through CDP is a powerful step in the right direction toward a world where action on plastic pollution and waste is business as usual. However, voluntary action alone is not enough.

“With plastic consumption increasing and greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production expected to double by 2060, companies must be transparent and held to account for their contributions to plastic pollution and waste.

“Mandatory disclosure can prevent loopholes and ensure policymakers have access to the insight they need to develop impactful, evidence-based policies that drive private sector action.

“It also creates a level playing field for companies in today’s highly-competitive business environment, enabling them to understand their impacts in terms of plastic pollution, the risks they face, the opportunities available to them, and where to take action.”

The UN Environment Programme is hoping that the Plastics Treaty will be finalised before the end of 2024.

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