Environmental advocacy group As You Sow says the largest consumer-facing companies are falling short in the area of plastic pollution reduction. It calls for them to support recycling, among other steps.
The Berkeley, Calif.-based group, which uses shareholder advocacy strategies to pressure corporations to reduce the environmental impacts of their packaging, released a report titled “Waste and Opportunity 2020: Searching for Corporation Leadership.” In it, the group grades 50 of the largest U.S. beverage, fast-food, consumer packaged goods and retail companies.
The highest grade it handed out was a B-, for Unilever. A dozen companies got C grades, 22 received D grades and 15 received Fs. As You Sow said the six lowest-ranked companies by size of revenue were Walmart, Kroger, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, Kraft Heinz and Mondelēz International.
Companies were judged on packaging design, reusable packaging, recycled content, data disclosure, voluntary support for improving recycling systems, and mandated financial responsibility to improve those systems. As You Sow said it saw the most progress in designing packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, followed by recycled-content commitments and actions to support recycling.
“There was notably less leadership in the areas of reusable packaging innovation, data transparency, and producer responsibility,” according to an As You Sow press release. “These results indicate that companies have a long way to go to transition from single-use plastics to reusable alternatives, take financial responsibility to fix the U.S. recycling system to dramatically increase recycling yields, and deliver a more circular plastics economy.”
The group recommends companies set goals for reducing plastic use, establish targets for high levels of recycled content, match packaging design to available recycling systems, refrain from packaging more products in flexible packaging until it can be recycled, contribute up to 1% annual revenue to help finance recycling system improvements, and prioritize long-term supply contracts with plastics reclaimers.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a statement in response to As You Sow’s report.
More stories about research
- APR brings new data into wider recycling conversation
- C-suite survey shows sustainability top choice for cuts
- McKinsey: By one key measure, plastics beat alternatives