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New Ocean Conservancy Report Shows Investor and Company Climate Commitments Ignore Plastics, A Major and Growing Driver of Climate Change

Outlines Blueprint for Creating Strong Climate Commitments to Mitigate the Climate Risks of Plastics

Washington, D.C. – WEBWIRE

A new Ocean Conservancy report, Plastic is Everywhere – Except the One Place It Should Be: How Investor and Company Climate Commitments Ignore Plastic and What to Do About It, released, finds that corporate and investor climate commitments and climate target-setting guidance overlook one major, growing segment of oil demand and greenhouse gas pollution: plastics.

Ocean Conservancy studied 28 company commitments, 12 investor commitments, and 15 group climate target-setting frameworks to understand efforts to address the climate risks of plastics and determine where gaps exist. Building on this research, the report recommends actions companies and investors can take to identify and reduce the climate risks of plastics.

“The report clearly shows the urgent need to incorporate plastics into corporate climate commitments,” said Aarthi Ananthanarayanan, Director of the Climate and Plastics Initiative at Ocean Conservancy. “The plastics industry is on a rapid growth trajectory, generating high levels of greenhouse gas pollution, from production to disposal. Continued investment will lock in oil and gas extraction for decades to come, putting the goals of the Paris Agreement—preventing catastrophic climate change—out of reach. At the same time, the 11 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year are projected to triple by 2040. That’s a disaster for our climate, for our ocean, and for the people that depend on them. If companies and investors are serious about achieving their climate goals, they must address plastics.”

The study’s most significant findings include:

  • Plastics are a conspicuous gap: 11 of 12 investors and 25 of 28 companies do not include plastics in their climate commitments.
  • Climate target-setting guidance and frameworks often omit the greenhouse gas emissions from plastics and, in some cases, incentivize continued plastics growth. Some of this guidance even perpetuates misinformation that plastics production is a viable greenhouse gas reduction and sequestration strategy, enabling the continued build-out of plastics infrastructure.
  • Investor climate commitments largely do not mention plastics even when they prioritize engagement on fossil fuels and other climate risks.
  • The transparency needed to mitigate the climate impacts of plastics is lacking. For example, data on Scope 3, or greenhouse gas pollution from a company’s value chain, are only required in limited circumstances and are rarely reported in full, even though they are critical to understanding the climate risks of plastics.
  • Research shows that reducing production and use of plastics and transitioning to a truly circular economy offer the most cost-effective opportunities for decarbonization.

“Plastic pollution threatens ocean wildlife, it threatens human health, and – as evidenced in this report – it also threatens the climate,” said Nicholas Mallos, Ocean Conservancy’s Vice President of Conservation and head of the organization’s ocean plastics program. “Despite being made from fossil fuels, plastics are too often seen only as a waste or pollution problem, not as a driving force of the climate crisis. Now is the time for investors and companies to address plastics, and we need everyone on board to turn the tide.”

This report also lays out 10 First Principles for Incorporating Plastics into Climate Commitments. These Principles offer a blueprint for addressing the climate risks of plastics and identifying opportunities for cost-effective decarbonization. To develop strong, actionable commitments, companies and investors should:

  1. Reduce overall plastics production and use.
  2. Phase out use of incineration, open-burning, and conversion chemical recycling of plastic waste.
  3. Develop scalable alternative delivery models to eliminate single-use plastics.
  4. Design products for circular use, i.e., to be reusable, recyclable, and long-lasting.
  5. Support policies that enable a clean energy and truly circular economy.
  6. Commit to a just transition for workers and communities reliant on or affected by plastics.
  7. Limit the use of unproven technologies when developing low-emissions polymers.
  8. Take a comprehensive approach to lifecycle analysis of alternatives, including human health, biodiversity, and climate.
  9. Assess plant-based materials with care, factoring in beginning and end of life impacts.
  10. Pay to clean up pollution but not as an offset against production.

“Climate risk is real for all of us, and our ocean and coastal communities are on the front lines,” said Anna-Marie Laura, Senior Director of Climate Policy at Ocean Conservancy. “Regulators, investors, and companies are beginning to understand this reality – and that there are significant investment opportunities in building a clean energy economy. Still, the conspicuous plastics gap in climate commitments needs to be filled. The good news is that reducing plastics and building a truly circular economy is good not just for business ­but also for the climate, for our health, and for the ocean.”

Ocean Conservancy looks forward to partnering with investors, companies, and standard-setting organizations to provide additional analysis and guidance on the climate risks of plastics to facilitate a just and successful clean energy transition.

Aarthi Ananthanarayanan is available for interviews up on request.

About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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