$10trn investor coalition piles pressure on companies to address plastic crisis

185 investment firms target food and goods companies in joint statement demanding action

Achmea IM, AXA IM and Sarasin & Partners are among 185 investors with $10trn calling on companies to do more to tackle plastic waste.

In a joint statement, signatories warned the plastics lifecycle “poses a serious and growing threat to the environment, climate, biodiversity, human rights and public health” and calls on companies to “set their sights higher and act more swiftly to address the plastics crisis”.

The statement, which is directed at the consumer goods and grocery retail sectors including companies such as Nestlé and Coca-Cola, sets out how this can be done through reducing dependence on single-use plastic packaging, and working to bring production and consumption of plastics within the limits of the planetary boundaries and alignment with the Paris Agreement and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

It is one of the largest investor coalitions ESG Clarity has reported on, and according to Lindsey Stewart, director of investment stewardship research at Morningstar, shows “sustainability-conscious asset managers are widening their focus on environmental matters beyond climate change”.

He added: “These initiatives illustrate how asset managers and asset owners are taking a more holistic view of how various environmental risks connect to each other, and how they impact society more broadly.” Signatory investors also want companies to show an action plan with clearly defined timescales and make progress reporting subject to external verification.

The statement also calls for companies to publicly support – rather than lobby against – ambitious policy on plastic reduction including the Global Plastics Treaty and the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), which is currently being overhauled. A recent analysis by InfluenceMap showed that lobbying efforts by industry associations on the PPWR already managed to considerably weaken some of the measures.

Arthur van Mansvelt, senior engagement specialist at Achmea IM, said: “Most companies are not acting fast enough in the face of the unfolding plastics crisis. The Global Plastics Treaty offers a unique and historic opportunity to tackle the problem at the source – we need companies supporting its ambition on prevention and reuse, not lobby against it. It’s their chance to be part of the solution.”

The estimated costs to society from plastic pollution – including environmental clean-up, ecosystem degradation, shorter life expectancy and medical treatment – exceed $100bn per year.

The signatories argue that failing to address these impacts exposes companies to financial risks that threaten value creation and investment returns, given the wave of action to tighten legislation around the world, the increasing number of lawsuits against companies, and a potential threat to brand value.

The statement has been coordinated by the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO), whose executive director Angélique Laskewitz said: “It’s worrying to see most companies in the FMCG and grocery retail sectors are taking limited action to mitigate the financial risks posed by plastics. Today investors are sending a clear signal to these companies they will face ever-increasing pressure if they don’t act soon to substantially reduce their plastic footprint.”

Signatory AXA IM added: “As intensive users of plastic packaging, food retail and consumer goods companies have a key role to play to make a scalable change and increase financial resilience of their business models by tackling the plastics crisis.”


Natasha Turner

Natasha was global editor at ESG Clarity, part of Mark Allen Financial, and a financial journalist for seven years. She has been shortlisted for Story of the Year and Investment Journalist of the Year...