GLRPPR Sector Resource: Valuing plastic: The business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry
Valuing plastic: The business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry
Plastic is one of the most useful and important materials in modern society. Life without the vast range of products and technologies it enables is almost unthinkable. Plastic preserves and protects food and medicine helping us lead healthy lives. It is used to make electronic devices like computers and smartphones that bring people together, and it helps make transport more fuel efficient through its use in vehicles. The versatility and low price of plastic compared with alternatives is reflected in the rapid growth of the market for the material.
But the environmental impacts of plastic cannot be ignored. Concerns are growing about its impact on the world's ecosystems. Marine wildlife is particularly vulnerable, and harmed through entanglement and ingestion of plastic. There is a risk of microscopic particles of plastic transferring toxins into the food chain. Fields, streets and beaches are increasingly littered with plastic bottles, bags and other trash. Plastic manufacturing processes use non-renewable resources, such as oil, and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contributing to climate change. In addition, the use of chemical additives in plastic may be hazardous to human health. All of these impacts are gaining increased attention from stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international institutions, governments, and the general public.
The objective of this report is to help companies manage the opportunities and risks associated with plastic use. It articulates the business case for companies to improve their measurement, disclosure and management of plastic use in their designs, operations and supply chains. In order to provide a sense of scale, the report sets out to quantify the physical impacts of plastic use translated into monetary terms. This metric can be seen as the current value-at-risk to a company, should these external impacts be realised internally through mechanisms like strengthened regulation, loss of market share, or increased price of raw materials and energy. This metric can also be used to help understand the magnitude of the opportunities, and the tangible benefits to stakeholders, including shareholders, of using plastic in an environmentally sustainable way.
United Nations Environment Programme
Date of Publication:
June 23, 2014
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