The End of the Plastic Era and Why You Should Pay Attention to it

Last month, the Government of Canada released its federal plastic ban, prohibiting the use of 6 selected single use plastic items (checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and food packaging that is difficult to recycle) by late 2021. The ban on plastics is just one of the many avenues governments are pursuing to achieve their environmental goals. Growing environmental legislation is a global trend as we loom closer to 2030, the year where we must achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45%, if we want to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 ºC.

A Greener Canada

It is evident now more than ever that the world is transitioning from sustainability discussion into action, and the roles of business entities are embedded in the government plans for achieving their environmental goals. The Government of Canada is pushing for a circular economy with zero plastic waste which can generate 42,000 new jobs and reduce annual costs by $500 million within the country. This includes opportunities for the private sector, with the federal government extending responsibility of zero plastic waste to corporations producing plastic products. The Canadian government will be introducing policies similar to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) paradigm, which essentially transfers the responsibility of managing the waste, or end of life, of products from municipalities to producers. EPR implementation has demonstrated effectiveness in both Germany and Austria where both saw a significant reduction in the amount of packaging on the market, and the amount of packaging recycled has increased. The private sector also plays a key role in Quebec’s climate action plans. The newly released ‘2030 Plan for a Green Economy’ is composed of 5 pillars? that will help achieve carbon dioxide emission reductions by 2030, paving way for carbon neutrality by 2050. The corporate sector plays a major role in the pillar “Build the economy of tomorrow”, which is focused on innovating and building strategies for a greener future. 

Investors jumping on this transition

These transitions have not gone unnoticed, with investors changing behaviours to reflect global trends – record numbers of investors are now committing to sustainability. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review records a sharp increase from 63 signatories in 2006 to 1,715 investors in 2018 who are now committed to incorporate ESG in their decision making process. These trillion dollar investors are pushing the plastics agenda across industry giants and the giants are responding. A 2018 survey conducted by Bain & Company on corporations showed that 81% believed that sustainability was “more important” to their business in 2018, than it was in 2013. Nestlé and Unilever have committed to recyclable or reusable plastic packaging by 2025, while Procter and Gamble aims to achieve this goal by 2030. Since 2018, similar pledges to reduce plastic and replace packaging with more sustainable materials were also made by Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Dell, IKEA and many more

Trends in consumer behaviour

It is not just government and investor pressure that is pushing sustainability in the corporate realm. A recent consumer survey conducted in Canada by PWC indicated a notable presence of conscious consumerism within the country. Consumers are concerned about the sustainability of their purchases; the plastic content, carbon footprint, and other environmental impacts. The survey showed that 65% of consumers prioritise buying local, 42% actively seek products with reduced plastic packaging, and 46% of consumers would pay more for organically produced food. These preferences were found to be more prevalent in high-end consumers as well as younger generations aged 18-24

Become part of the solution!

It is imperative that corporations join this movement against plastics as those who have already entered the fight and implemented their sustainability strategies will be reaping the benefits in this new green era. It can be overwhelming for corporations to delve into sustainability and many questions on where to start and how to prioritize can arise, however resources to support organizations with this transition are available. This shift to greener products and services will not only help protect profits, but will also help improve reputations, increase customer loyalty and reduce risks in the future.

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