The proliferation of flexible plastic packaging such as films and sachets is a significant factor in business not meeting plastic commitments this decade, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. A new report analyses the progress since 2018 of the now 80 companies signed up to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which include many big brands such as Danone, Unilever and Coca-Cola.
While there has been progress – such as the increase in share of post-consumer recycled content in packaging from 4.8% in 2018 to 10% in 2021 – the report highlights the poor recyclability at scale of flexible plastics as a key reason companies will miss 2025 plastics commitments. The report also says that more work needs to be done to promote reuse over recyclability – 42% of commitment signatories have not yet incorporated any reuse models into their packaging strategies.
Lula: hope for the Amazon
Ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s close victory in Brazil’s presidential election has been received by many as a moment of hope for the Amazon rainforest, as it approaches a crucial tipping point. Climate has been a cornerstone of Lula’s campaign – and Brazil watchers hope that his presidency will now bring a return to enforcement of environmental regulations.
He has, for example, pledged to remove illegal miners and ranchers from the Amazon. His more ambitious proposals include the creation of a ministry dedicated to indigenous peoples and a national climate change authority to ensure that Brazil’s policies serve its goals under the Paris Agreement. Enforcement may prove difficult once Lula assumes office on 1st January, with a divided Brazilian congress and a very narrow margin of victory.
Mandatory farm food waste reporting
UK supermarket Tesco, in partnership with WWF, has called for the UK government to take urgent action on on-farm food waste. Their new Hidden Waste report has found that more than 6m meals worth of edible food, or about 3.3m tonnes per year, goes to waste before leaving the farm gate, in the UK. The report argues that the current cost of living crisis, and growing number of people in the UK facing food insecurity and poverty, has made governmental action even more crucial. Tesco itself has already announced plans to halve food waste in its own operations by 2025.
Sustainability talent shortage
Microsoft and the Boston Consulting Group have published a joint report on the work of 15 companies at the forefront of sustainability innovation and change – including Microsoft. The study found that 68% of corporate environmental leaders were internal hires, and 60% of sustainability team members joined without expertise in the field. In an interview with Reuters, the Microsoft Corp president, Brad Smith, said that thousands of businesses will fail to meet their net-zero and climate pledges because of a shortage in staff trained in sustainability. He stressed that employers must take a broader look at their investment in employee learning and training; they should bring in instructors, pay for continuing education and convene on carbon-reduction strategies.
Deforestation slows, but not enough
The latest Forest Declaration Assessment report has found that whilst deforestation slowed by 6.3% in 2021, most nations are not on track to meet international pledges to stop global forest loss and degradation by 2030. The assessment highlights that progress has been driven by efforts from government and companies in Indonesia to reduce the negative impacts of palm oil production.
However, forest loss is still being driven by global demand for commodities such as timber and fossil fuels, the report says, and governments need to do more to incentive and encourage the private sector to safeguard forests. Forest conservation efforts require between up to $460bn per year to meet 2030 goals. Current commitments average less than 1% of this, the report says.
Mandatory nature impact disclosure?
Ahead of COP15, the UN biodiversity conference in December, leaders of more than 330 businesses including H&M, Unilever and Nestlé have urged world leaders to make nature impact assessment and disclosure mandatory for companies by 2030. In an open letter to heads of state, business leaders have stressed that maintaining the business and financial status quo is “economically short-sighted and will destroy value over the long term”.
The companies, with combined revenues of over $1.5tn, say that they are currently taking voluntary actions to assess, disclose, and address their impacts on nature. However, they call for a playing field levelling, as companies and financial institutions need political certainty before they will change their business models.
UK investor greenwashing clampdown
The UK’s financial services regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, has proposed new measures to clamp down on greenwashing by investors. Concerned about exaggerated or misleading sustainability claims, the FCA has announced a new package of measures aiming to protect consumers and improve trust, bringing restrictions on how and when terms such as ESG, green and sustainable can be applied. It would also introduce sustainable investment product labels, consumer-facing disclosures on the product’s features, and requirements for distributors including investment platforms to ensure that these are accessible and clear to consumers. The FCA is calling for feedback in a consultation paper by the end of January, and aims to publish new rules by mid-2023.