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Corporate Plastic Pollution Scorecard provides an in-depth review of the plastic packaging practices

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As You Sow’s biannual Corporate Plastic Pollution Scorecard provides an in-depth and meaningful review of the plastic packaging practices of 50 of the largest consumer-facing and publicly traded corporations with operations in North America. The NGO worked with industry leaders to establish 44 metrics across six pillars of corporate responsibility on plastic packaging.

  1. Packaging Design – Use less plastic and use it better.
  2. Reusable Packaging – Disrupt the traditional take-make-waste model.
  3. Recycled Content – Close the loop on recycling.
  4. Public Data Transparency – Facilitate external analysis and industry goal setting.
  5. Supporting Recycling – Fund enough infrastructure to capture all packaging that is produced.
  6. Extended Producer Responsibility – Acknowledge responsibility for the plastic pollution crisis and finance effective solutions.

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Each of the six categories (pillars) included positive trends, corporate leaders in the category, and recommendations for improvement. Because only one company, Coca-Cola, received the top grade of B, As You Sow says that “companies can, and should, be doing much more to stave off the immense predictions of ocean plastic deposition and corporate financial repercussions.”

There were notable improvements, including a ninefold increase in plastic reduction goals and a nearly fourfold increase in support for extended producer responsibility. However, there were more areas of concern than improvement:

  • The improvements represent less than 1/3 of the 50 companies included in the report.
  • Only six companies have reuse-specific goals, a key part of transitioning to a circular economy.
  • Only one company, Coca-Cola, is publicly reporting the units of plastic packaging sold.
  • Only 5% of the funds necessary to expand and update U.S. recycling infrastructure has been secured.
  • Zero companies are currently donating their fair share of funding to support recycling infrastructure.

Positive Trends

Positive trends of companies analyzed in the report include:

  • 29 companies have set goals for 100% of their packaging to be recyclable, compostable, or reusable.
  • 31 have completed or will complete an assessment of their packaging to indicate opportunities for reuse. Of these, 30 have active pilot projects to trial new technology and gauge consumer reaction.
  • 23 have set targets to increase the use of post-consumer or pre-consumer recycled content in plastics, five more than in the 2020 report.
  • 22 of the 23 companies with goals to increase the amount of recycled content in plastic packaging include a stipulation that their recycled content will be post-consumer, not pre-consumer – scrap material from the manufacturing process that never reaches the end-user.
  • 12 with recycled content goals currently use at least 5% recycled plastic content.
  • 24 currently report annual plastic packaging tonnage or volume, allowing investors to better understand plastics exposure and also track progress on commitments to reduce plastic use, up from 11 in 2020.
  • 24 companies annually report their plastic recycled content, up from 12.
  • 32 participate in or finance research activities to improve U.S. recycling infrastructure, up from 15.
  • 29 make some donations to support U.S. recycling infrastructure, up from 19. However, these contributions are paltry when compared with the $17 billion that is needed to actually facilitate recycling at scale.
  • 11 now publicly support Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), up from just three a year ago.

Large companies receiving a grade of D or F

According to How You Sow’s report, the largest companies by revenue that received a D or F grade included: Amazon, Costco, Walgreens, The Kroger Company, Proctor & Gamble, and Kraft Heinz. These firms were largely downgraded because they lacked goals for cuts in plastic use, cuts in virgin plastic use, increase in recycled plastic content, increase in the use of reusable packaging, limited public data transparency, and/or lack of support for recycling.

The report includes comprehensive appendices with recommendations, individual company grades by category, and a description of the grading methodology. Image credits: As You Sow

About As You Sow

As You Sow harnesses shareholder power to create lasting change and has a mission to promote environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. The organization’s vision is a safe, just, and sustainable world in which protecting the environment and human rights is central to corporate decision-making. The NGO believes corporations are responsible for most of the pressing social and environmental problems we face today and must be a willing part of the solutions.

Corporate Plastic Pollution Scorecard (full report)


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