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Turning tides on plastics

Turning tides on plastics

03-03-2019 | Column

Guest post by Natalie Fee, Founder, City to Sea

We’ve all seen the pictures – beaches strewn with more plastic than seaweed, marine wildlife entangled in discarded fishing nets and seabirds with bellies full of bottle tops, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes. And with twelve million tonnes of plastic washing into our oceans every year, the equivalent of 16 shopping bags full of plastic for every metre of coastline, these devastating images have served as a much-needed wake-up call.

Plastic pollution spun out of control while most of us were still slinging straws in our cocktails, unaware of the effect our actions were having on the oceans. But for many, including myself, the photos and footage of marine wildlife shared on social media became a powerful catalyst for change.

In 2015 I founded my organisation, City to Sea, with the intention of changing behaviour. I wanted people to change their relationship to single-use plastic and use a lot less of it, I wanted supermarkets and retailers to help consumers do that by reducing plastic packaging and I wanted government to make that easier by introducing legislation.

But even now, three years on and with a suite of award-winning campaigns under our belt, change is still piecemeal. Despite plastic pollution still holding strong in the headlines, and ‘single-use’ being named Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2018, businesses and governments aren’t responding with the same sense of urgency held by individuals; a recent survey showed 85% of the British public wanted big businesses and governments to take drastic action on plastic pollution, now.

Thankfully there’s another route to effecting change – through the investment community. Investors need to be aware of risk factors and as such, recognise environmental issues (like the irrevocable damage of Earth’s ecosystems) as a threat to the value of their assets.

Investors hold a lot of power to influence. By working with an asset manager like Robeco, where the values are aligned and there is a commitment to engage with some of the largest plastic producing companies, we can ensure our message is heard where the biggest changes need to happen. And because Robeco is part of the Plastic Solutions Investor Alliance, they add their voice alongside the voices of 25 other investors, meaning between then they represent $1 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of clout. Together they’ve pledged to interact with leading companies to find solutions through new corporate commitments, programs, and policies.

It’s for this reason we’re delighted to develop a partnership with Robeco as our sustainability investing partner. With Robeco’s help we can do more to make sure fewer bits of plastic end up choking our oceans. We can do more to make sure broken-down plastic isn’t entering our food chain. And we can do more to make sure the devastating images we’ve all got used to seeing become a reminder of the past, not a sign of the future.

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