Why we’ve signed the business call for a UN treaty on plastic pollution

Plastic pollution rapidly outpaces global efforts to stop it, not only devastating ocean wildlife, but our ability to address climate change and biodiversity loss.

17 December 2021.

Plastic pollution is rapidly outpacing global efforts to stop it. The global volume of plastic in market is set to double – not only devastating ocean wildlife, but our ability to address climate change and biodiversity loss. Without suitable measures across resource consumption, circular and modular design thinking and resource reduction (aka pollution prevention ) we will fail to resolve this crisis. It’s also believed to be costing the world economy up to $2.5 trillion², a number growing exponentially.

This is why we’re calling for a UN Treaty on plastic pollution, ahead of the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA5) to be held in February 2022.

What is the business call for a plastic pollution treaty?

Businesses from across the plastic value chain have backed the call through a manifesto, urging governments to negotiate and agree on a UN Treaty on plastic pollution. These businesses recognise the need to continue addressing the challenge within their own supply chains through reduce, reuse and recycle efforts. Yet, the scale of this crisis requires greater commitments. They have publicly called for government support, asking world leaders to set committed and coordinated actions to tackle the crisis.

The February 2022 UNEA5 conference offers a unique opportunity to call on more UN member states to start negotiating on the treaty: the new global agreement on plastic pollution.

U Ethical joins a growing movement of financial institutions, businesses, academics, governments and individuals supporting this call. We agree with the key messages from the manifesto that the treaty will seek an international binding approach to amplify current efforts and level the playing field, delivering the necessary industry scale change to end plastic pollution².

Head of ethics and impact Désirée Lucchese explains that you can’t solve the systemic issues of climate change and biodiversity loss in isolation, and that solving the plastic pollution crisis is part and parcel of addressing the first two: “If we want a world where fish are not made of plastics, through the ingestion of micro-plastics, or hatching birds do not die as their mothers mistake ocean plastic as feed for their chicks, then investors and all other market participants need to take responsibility. An international treaty is a way to take the bull by the horns so to speak.

“We saw this during the pandemic that the issues we face globally are interrelated. For example the issue of social inequality was heightened during the pandemic crisis, the same goes for plastic pollution and climate change – we must solve these issues concurrently,” Désirée said.

Solving the crises of plastic pollution and climate change through a circular economy

The manifesto outlines that we can solve plastic waste and pollution in a way that also addresses climate change. To do this we require a circular economy for plastic. One that addresses the full life-cycle of plastic. This can be addressed essentially through three principles:

• Eliminate all problematic and unnecessary plastic

• Innovate to ensure plastics are reusable, recyclable or compostable (see Figure 1³ below outlining types of plastics and whether they are currently recyclable).

• Recirculate all plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment

Figure 1³:

Ending plastic pollution is good for the environment and the economy

As we recently learned from the UN’s Climate Change Conference COP26, to solve a global crisis we require clear goals, binding targets and consistent measurement, providing companies with long-term stability to plan and invest. This will tangibly benefit businesses both financially and in terms of their environmental impact.

Furthermore, these issues cannot be solved in isolation or by one sector acting alone but holistically with governments and industry-bodies on-board.

We appeal to world leaders to urgently begin negotiations on this UN Treaty to ensure governments commit to a coordinated set of actions and policies to develop the necessary infrastructure and establish regulatory standards in what could be a significant and urgently needed shift – similar to past industrial revolutions.

To learn more about our views on plastic pollution and why we need a UN Treaty, or responsible investment more broadly, please get in touch today.

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Article by

Lexie Hume


17 December 2021


Ethics and impact

Article by

Lexie Hume


17 December 2021