Alliance to End Plastic Waste members accused of ‘greencrowding’

Household names that have pledged to end plastic waste are 'barely making a dent'

Members of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) have been called out for being the biggest users of single-use plastic, while falling well short of meeting their own recycling targets.

Non-profit think tank Planet Tracker analysed the 65 current AEPW members that have pledged “to end plastic waste in the environment and protect the planet” and found that in the first three years of a five-year target they have “barely made a dent” by only achieving just 0.04% of recycling targets.

Planet Tracker’s report of the findings, Barely Credible, also detailed how eight of the world’s top 20 single-use plastic waste makers are members of the AEPW, and 92% of all the current AEPW members did not publicly support the Business Statement for a Legally Binding UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution earlier this year.

Members include PepsiCo, ExxonMobil, Shell, Veolia, Procter & Gamble, Total and Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings.

There were further findings in the report such as two-thirds (68%) of the AEPW’s founding members are also members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which recently campaigned against a tax on plastics in the US and opposes the Break Free from Plastics Pollution Act.

Planet Tracker also highlighted as more members have joined the AEPW, its plastic waste target has remained unchanged, meaning the average waste target per member has declined 56% between 2019 and 2021 – from 107Kt to 47Kt annually.

“Our findings lay out a clear picture of a coalition that is greencrowding – a sophisticated form of greenwashing that sees global corporates hide behind an appealing group title in order to justify moving at the pace of the lowest common denominator,” Thalia Bofiliou, senior investment analyst (plastics) at Planet Tracker, stated.

John Willis, director of research at Planet Tracker, added: “Ending plastic waste is a worthy aim… But it must be meaningful. For an organisation called the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a minimum aspiration should be to remove the plastic waste it produces itself.

“Instead, many members are choosing to invest heavily in the expansion of plastic production, while failing to fund even meagre recovery and recycling targets through the coalition.

“The major plastic producers in the AEPW do not even remove or recycle 99.99% of their own plastic waste. So whilst the number of projects may be eye-catching, we must look at the data, which clearly demonstrates that collectively the alliance has barely made a dent.”

Planet Tracker’s report also highlighted the $1.5bn pledge by the AEPW members over a five-year period represents “only a fraction of their members’ financial capacity” and calls for further commitments including:

  1. Set meaningful targets for the removal and recovery of plastic waste that take account of the magnitude of the global plastic waste problem.
  2. Set bold targets for investment levels for members which will support meaningful plastic waste solutions rather than diverting cashflow to continued facility expansion.
  3. Recognise that virgin plastic production is a major part of the plastic pollution problem.
  4. Provide transparent, measurable and audited progress reports so that AEPW executives can be held to account, especially when missing inadequate targets.
  5. Members, strategic partners and supporters of the Alliance, which includes well-known consultants such as Bain & Company, BCG, IBM and McKinsey & Company, should conduct due diligence to question their exposure to reputational risk via the AEPW. 

ESG Clarity contacted AEPW for comment and the organisation responded to say it disagrees with the Planet Tracker report and claimed it contains a number of factual inaccuracies – “especially the unsubstantiated, third-party data at its heart” – which
has caused them to reach a variety of incorrect conclusions.

It also said AEPW is working to integrate greater transparency into its
reporting framework and developing a set of certifiable impact metrics to better track and
measure the outcomes of the AEPW portfolio.

“Ending plastic waste in the environment is an ambitious endeavour that requires collective
intelligence, underpinned by a diverse network of stakeholders, resources and action,” a spokesperson commented. “We remain committed to fulfilling our mission by enabling the transition towards a global circular economy for plastic.”


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...