Stakeholder Capitalism

The time is now to commit to a binding global framework to address plastic pollution

Government sanitary workers collect and segregate plastic pollution in Manila bay July 3, 2014.

Government sanitary workers collect and segregate plastic pollution in Manila bay July 3, 2014. Image: REUTERS

Leanne Geale
Executive Vice President, Group General Counsel, Nestlé S.A.
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Plastic Pollution

  • About 80% of all plastics produced are now sitting in landfill or the environment
  • Global patchwork of regulations does not effectively or sustainably address scale of plastic waste crisis
  • Nestlé calls on world leaders to reach global agreement on plastic waste during the United Nations Environmental Assembly

The occasion of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) 5.2 meeting offers world leaders the opportunity to address the urgent and growing crisis precipitated by plastic pollution.

Support for a binding international framework is the best hope the world has for ending plastic pollution, and for creating a model for a sustainable and circular future for plastic use.

Even today, the global annual production of virgin plastics is expected to double by 2040. Sadly, about 80% of all plastics produced have accumulated in landfills and the wider environment.

For decades, plastic pollution has been managed by piecemeal agreements that differ radically across jurisdictions, in large part due to the absence of a universally ratified and properly enforced international instrument.

Over 160 governments, including all leading economies, have been calling for a new Treaty. If leaders are truly serious about solving plastic pollution, then they must not delay any further in reaching and implementing a global agreement.

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Business is part of the solution

To address this challenge, businesses can, and must, be part of the solution. Virgin plastics based on a linear production cycle increasingly belong to the past, replaced by circular models and products.

A binding international framework for the full plastics lifecycle such as the one proposed by Peru and Rwanda at the UNEA, is good, indeed necessary, to support business efforts towards zero plastic waste.

At Nestlé, we must comply with new policies and laws each year on packaging end of life across the 186 countries where we operate. In 2021 alone, 147 laws were enacted or introduced. This patchwork of regulatory approaches is desperately inefficient, generating less sustainable and more costly processes.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

A binding framework on plastic pollution

Thus, a binding framework, with clearly articulated and proportional obligations applicable to all parties, is what is right for the planet, and for business.

Its scope should encompass all aspects of a sustainable model for plastics (i.e., reduction, reuse, recycling and removal) to create a level playing field for innovation and green infrastructure development across the value chain.

At Nestlé, our vision is that none of our packaging, including plastics, ends up in landfill or as litter, and we are taking a comprehensive approach to achieve this.

We support our packaging suppliers to develop reusable or recyclable packaging that meets strict food safety standards. Already, nearly 75% of our plastic packaging is designed for recycling or reuse. Our goal is to reach 100% by 2025. In parallel, and in partnership with retailers, we are currently scaling a variety of reusable and packaging-free delivery systems.

As the largest food and beverage company in the world, we strongly believe that a binding international agreement is a major step in the direction of a more sustainable future. Relying on voluntary commitments will not result in the changes we need. There must be defined pathways to transition and investment in the development of technologies and infrastructure to enable a circular and waste-free future for plastics.

The world has already lost too much time in addressing the issue of plastic waste pollution. A world without plastic waste may feel a long way away, but a UNEA agreement can be a major step toward getting there.

Nestlé is adding its voice to those calling for a strong and ambitious global agreement, and we call on everyone, especially leading companies to join us in this effort.

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