The Role of CDP Disclosure in Solving the Plastics Pollution Problem

The Role of CDP Disclosure in Solving the Plastics Pollution Problem

The Role of CDP Disclosure in Solving the Plastics Pollution Problem

by: Leticia Socal & Preeti Shanker | September 13, 2023


The plastics pollution crisis has long been one of the most visible sustainability issues of our times, and yet the efforts to address it, while numerous, have remained mostly siloed. Governments, institutions, consumers, NGOs, scientists, corporations, investors, and organizations like ClimeCo are working to solve different aspects of this multi-fold, complex issue. Still, the call for cohesive and collaborative action is finally getting louder, and efforts to unite various stakeholders, become aligned, and work towards a common goal.

The latest shot in the arm towards this shift is CDP’s (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) foray into plastics disclosure.

If growth in single-use plastic production continues at current rates, it will account for 5 – 10% of global emissions by 2050.

CDP’s Growing Influence 

CDP manages a global disclosure system that companies, investors, cities, states, and regions use to engage with environmental issues. Companies and investors use the CDP system rather effectively to share key information on metrics, strategies, risks, and opportunities that are either hard to glean from sustainability reports, hard to distinguish from greenwashing claims, or difficult to compare or act upon meaningfully. 

CDP’s disclosure modules on climate change, water security, and forests standardized how and what data is gathered to be useful for investors and shareholders. The annual disclosure cycle means continuous engagement between CDP, companies, and investors, who can collectively push the needle toward attaining sustainability goals.

CDP has grown into a tour de force. As of 2023, a whopping 18,700 companies [1] have been requested to disclose data to CDP by over 740 investors with more than $136 trillion in assets. Over 340 major buyers, with a purchasing power of $6.4 trillion, have asked their suppliers to disclose through CDP. In short, if you were a company that received a disclosure request from CDP, you get your ducks in a row and buckle up for the ride! 

CDP’s Foray Into Plastics 

In 2023, CDP announced the introduction of its Plastics Module. Recognizing the scale and complexity of the plastics problem and its successful role in shaping the climate change movement, this is CDP’s attempt to bring similar standardization, rigor, and engagement to the plastics crisis.

In its inaugural year, CDP has included the Plastics Module within its existing water security questionnaire, recognizing the threats posed by plastic pollution to water systems. In the future, as disclosures improve, companies’ practices mature, and the engagement around plastics deepens, CDP is likely to carve off plastics disclosures as its standalone topic with an independent questionnaire.

Around 7,000 companies have been requested to respond to the CDP Plastics module in 2023. According to a recent CDP consultation, 81% of responding capital markets and supply chain members said that the information requested by CDP on plastics would be useful in informing financial or procurement decisions [2].

Companies face $100 billion annual financial risk if governments require them to cover waste management costs at expected volumes and recyclability.

Key Points on CDP Plastic Disclosure 

– Plastics-related questions are included in the water security questionnaire
– The Plastics Module contains 5-9 questions about a company’s plastics-related environmental impacts
– In 2023, responses to the plastics questions are not scored (this will change in the future)
– CDP’s questions build on existing frameworks and best practices, including work carried out by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and UNEP’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, the PEW Charitable Trusts, and the Minderoo Foundation 

What Questions are CDP Asking About Plastics? 

CDP is asking for information from all companies that use, produce, or commercialize plastics, covering the entirety of their value chain, including plastics waste management, reprocessing, and disposal.              

Within the water security questionnaire, Module W.10 contains 5-9 plastics-related questions covering a range of topics around the reporting company’s practices around plastic use and plastic production. CDP provides a useful mapping of the questions, reproduced below:

How to Approach CDP Plastics Disclosure

Disclosure, while cumbersome and time-consuming, is valuable for any reporting company. Disclosure, done right: 

– Aligns the company’s intentions with its implementation plans
– Shines a light on risks the company may not have considered yet and opportunities the company may have yet to discover, both of which are material to its investors

Whether or not your business is among the 7000 early CDP Plastics respondents, plastics disclosure will likely be on the cards soon for most companies. Plastics is soon to be a material disclosure area for your company, especially if you operate in the following sectors: apparel, biotech/healthcare/pharmaceutical, chemical, food/beverage/agriculture, fossil fuel, hospitality, infrastructure, manufacturing, material, mineral extraction, power generation, retail or transportation services (see CDP’s guidance on how plastic is material to these sectors). 

We recommend taking a proactive approach to plastics disclosure. While it remains an unscored module at CDP, this presents an excellent low-risk opportunity for companies to begin disclosures and establish processes and policies for future-focused improved disclosures. 

Here are some valuable resources to get started:

Overview of CDP Plastics
CDP’s Technical Guidance on Plastics Disclosure

To learn more, contact our Plastics and CDP Reporting experts at

[1]  CDP – What We Do
[2]  CDP – Environmental Disclosure System Opens for Reporting on Plastics

About the Authors 

Leticia Socal is a chemist and seasoned plastic industry professional with over 15 years of experience spanning R&D, intellectual property, market research & strategy. Leticia is a certified TRUE Zero Waste advisor and a Blue Consultant. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Chemistry, a Master of Science in Materials Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science.

Preeti Shanker is a lawyer-turned-sustainability consultant with over 12 years of industry experience. Preeti has worked with clients from a variety of sectors including manufacturing, pharma, technology and financial services to develop the companies’ ESG and climate strategies and hone their ESG reporting, communications and disclosures, including CDP disclosures She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law and a Master’s degree in Sustainability Management. 

Forest Management Strategies for Creating Carbon Offsets

Forest Management Strategies for Creating Carbon Offsets

Forest Management Strategies for Creating Carbon Offsets

Forest Management Strategies for Creating Carbon Offsets
Did you know that land use change and deforestation contribute between 12–20% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions [1]? It is no wonder that the idea of harnessing the carbon market to reverse these trends has attracted substantial interest.

In our recent editorial series, Transparency in Developing Carbon Credits, we explain how offsets are generated, discuss the meaning of high-quality, and describe the difference between industrial, technology-based, and nature-based projects. As forest and ecosystem experts, we want to take you beyond that series and elaborate on what high-quality nature-based solutions (NBS) mean in terms of forest carbon accounting and how Improved Forest Management (IFM) practices can boost the potential to generate carbon credits.

IFM as a Tool in Managing Existing Carbon Stocks 

High-quality NBS projects remove and store large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere while also benefiting local communities and biodiversity. Generally, NBS projects are classified into two primary sub-categories (or project types): protection (stewardship/avoided emission) and restoration (reforestation or afforestation/removed emissions). Protection projects revolve around preventing forest loss in high-risk areas, typically determined based on a 10-year historical trajectory of deforestation rates. Credits are allocated based on the number of carbon emissions (CO2e) avoided from entering the atmosphere due to successful forest conservation efforts. Meanwhile, restoration projects generate credits that reflect the annual carbon emissions removed from the atmosphere and are stored because of additional tree growth. These projects focus on expanding tree coverage through the following practices: 

  • Reforestation – the natural or intentional replenishing of existing forests that have been depleted, usually through deforestation but also after clearcutting
  • Afforestation – the establishment of a forest in an area where there was no recent tree cover
  • Agroforestry – cultivation, and use of trees and shrubs with crops and livestock in sustainable agricultural systems
  • Silvopastoral – the practice of integrating trees, forage, and the grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way

Can you combine the benefits of both protection and restoration with IFM? Yes, you can. 

IFM projects focus on maximizing carbon emissions avoidance and removal potential of working forests, those subject to commercial timber harvest. A great example and triumphant story of carbon credits generated by an IFM project can be seen on Afognak Island in Southern Alaska. Here is an excellent example of how ClimeCo strives to ensure that our NBS projects go above and beyond the current standards 

The Afognak Forest Carbon Project, developed from a partnership between the American Land Conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, protects 8,200 acres of centuries-old Sitka spruce forests from any future logging exploitation, ensuring it will sequester and store carbon long into the future. Protecting unlogged Afognak’s forests will retain the carbon in the current forest biomass, sequester additional carbon in the conserved forests, and avoid emissions from logging and transportation.

The Afognak Forest in the state of Alaska
The Afognak Forest Carbon Project achieves net GHG emission reductions and removals by avoiding carbon emissions from logging in the baseline scenario. The Afognak properties were being managed for timber production by previous managers with logging plans and adjacent properties owned by the previous owners. The most plausible baseline scenario would be clearcut timber harvesting following minimum State of Alaska forest requirements and standard practices, evident from the slow recovery times resulting from previous logging in the project lands across Afognak Island.

The Afognak project scenario is conservation management, wherein the State of Alaska manages the properties for wilderness and ecosystem protection and enhancement activities under the terms of the title transfer agreement and federal conservation easement. Additionality is demonstrated as the project activity prevents planned harvest of the current native forests in perpetuity.

A comparison of Net Ecosystem Carbon Storage (Biomass + Deadwood + Belowground dead biomass) by Scenario (Year 1 = 2008).

Forest Carbon Accounting: How Are Credits Estimated?

High-quality NBS have a measurable and verifiable atmospheric impact. As demonstrated in the equation below, credits are based on the difference between baseline and project carbon emissions. Different carbon source/sink pools depend on the project type (protection, restoration, IFM) and the standard applied: Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) [2], Climate Action Reserve (CAR) [3], American Carbon Registry (ACR) [4]. For instance, the Afognak project follows VCS Methodology VM00012, providing for IFM in Temperate and Boreal Forests. The source/sink pools included in estimating baseline and project carbon emissions were standing live trees (aboveground biomass), standing dead trees, harvested wood products, roots (belowground biomass), and dead wood. Secondary effects may also be considered, such as burning logging slash and fossil fuels, including carbon emissions related to machinery during site preparation, and emissions from clearing shrubs in the project area.

Project reduction, minus baseline emissions, minus leakage emissions, equals total credits
Uncertainty in estimating carbon credits from NBS projects is expected. It arises from errors associated with measuring and modeling carbon stored in biomass, mapping errors, and various quantifying carbon impacts. These errors are estimated and accounted for by deducting error terms from calculated emission reductions and removals. Furthermore, there is the possibility of market forces causing the activities and carbon emissions to leak out of the project boundary [5]. Current standards require monitoring “leakage belts” and discounting credits to account for estimated leakage [6]. Finally, there is the possibility of project failure. To ensure that credits are effectively permanent (e.g., emissions reduction or removal will not be emitted within the next 100 years), some standards require a contribution of 1030% of the generated credits to an insurance buffer pool that backstops emissions associated with natural disturbances (e.g., fire, floods, hurricanes) or human-induced disturbance (e.g., illegal logging).

ClimeCo addresses uncertainty in forest carbon credit estimation through improved methodologies and data collection. By adopting conservative estimates, reduced uncertainty occurs. A rigorous MRV process is implemented to provide stakeholders with reliable information and reduce the risk of inaccurate reporting. 

The annual monitoring, reporting, and verification cycle (MRV)

We know forest carbon accounting can be complex, but transparency is crucial to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of NBS project types in mitigating carbon emissions. IFM can increase avoidance and removal of carbon emissions through planned activities over business-as-usual projections. This approach helps to sustainably manage forests and protect and provide economic development and biodiversity conservation opportunities. 

Our nature-based project development experts are rich in ecosystems and forest sciences. We are here to support and are ready to share our knowledge to help our clients make the best decisions for their business and our planet. To learn more about the environmental benefits of the Afognak, please read our previous blog, Beyond the Trees.

[1]  Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (Cambridge University Press, 2022)
[2]  Verified Carbon Standard (2023, June 12)
[3]  Climate Action Reserve (2023, June 12)
[4]  American Carbon Registry (2023, June 12)

[5]  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2021)
[6]  Jenkins, W. A., Olander, L. P., & Murray, B. C. (2009)

About the Authors 

Juliana Magalhaes, a Senior Project Associate at ClimeCo, is passionate about turning science-based ideas into actions that promote the sustainability of forests. Her experience with forest growth data and understanding of multi-objective forest management is helping to develop high-quality NBS projects at ClimeCo. 

Karina Salimbayeva is a Senior Project Associate at ClimeCo, specializing in nature-based solutions. With a deep understanding of forestry and extensive experience in spatial analysis, Karina combines her passion for the environment with cutting-edge technology to inform decision-making in carbon projects. 

ClimeCo Wins Big at the 2023 Telly Awards

ClimeCo Wins Big at the 2023 Telly Awards

Nancy Marshall, SVP, Marketing
+1 484.415.7603 or

ClimeCo Wins Big at the 2023 Telly Awards

ClimeCo Wins Big at the 2023 Telly Awards
BOYERTOWN, Pennsylvania (June 7, 2023) –
ClimeCo is pleased to announce that we’ve received multiple awards in gold, silver, and bronze from the 2023 Telly Awards! Created and produced by marketing agency Cargo, our videos share the impact of ClimeCo’s Plastic Credit Program and Nature-based Solutions (NBS) and highlight the environmental, social, and economic benefits of our environmental commodity projects.

Filmed in Cambodia, “A Plastic-Free Coastline” received Gold for Branded Content in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for featuring solutions to the plastic waste crisis and the positive impact plastic collection projects have on the environment and local communities.

In addition, ClimeCo’s “Restoring Ecosystems To Drive Climate Impact” received a Silver award for Branded Content in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and a Bronze award for Business-to-Business (B2B). The video features a few of ClimeCo’s reforestation projects and highlights their expertise in connecting markets to finance high-quality nature-based solutions to create environmental and social impact.

“When we ventured into creating videos for the first time, our goal was to share ClimeCo’s story and purpose,” said Nancy Marshall, ClimeCo’s Senior Vice President of Marketing. “We partnered with Cargo because we knew they’d create compelling content and portray our work in the best possible light.”

The Telly Awards honors excellence in video and television across all screens. Receiving over 12,000+ entries from all 50 states and five continents, Telly Award winners represent work from some of the most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies, and publishers worldwide.

Visit to see the complete list of the 2023 winners!



About ClimeCo

ClimeCo is a respected global advisor, transaction facilitator, trader, and developer of environmental commodity market products and related solutions. We specialize in voluntary carbon, regulated carbon, renewable energy credits, plastics credits, and regional criteria pollutant trading programs.  Complementing these programs is a team of professionals skilled in providing sustainability program management solutions and developing and financing of GHG abatement and mitigation systems.

For more information or to discuss how ClimeCo can drive value for your organization, contact us at +1 484.415.0501,, or through our website Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using our handle, @ClimeCo.

About Cargo

Founded in 2006, Cargo is a global, data-driven, B2SB (Business to Small Business) Marketing agency that delivers strategic marketing solutions and services. Online at


About The Telly Awards 

The Telly Awards was founded in 1979 to honor excellence in local, regional and cable television commercials with non-broadcast video and television programming added soon after. With the recent evolution and rise of digital video (web series, VR, 360 and beyond), the Telly Awards today also reflects and celebrates this exciting new era of the moving image on and offline. Telly Award winners represent work from some of the most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies and publishers from around the world. 

Plastic Footprint Part II: Mitigation Metrics That Matter

Plastic Footprint Part II: Mitigation Metrics That Matter

Plastic Footprint Part II: Mitigation Metrics That Matter

The critical connection between plastic mitigation and corporate leadership

by: Leticia Socal | May 24, 2023


Part I of this blog series showcased the benefits of executing a baseline plastic footprint analysis. Now it is time to understand that the risks at stake are equally valuable.

Part II outlines the key metrics corporate leadership will find interesting when planning and budgeting for their plastic mitigation strategy. Once the scope and execution of a plastic footprint has been mapped, planning internal buy-in to implement mitigation actions is essential. Acting now is vital for corporations due to timely institutional changes and because circular plastic is still in its pioneer stage. Early and effective action will establish participants at the forefront of development and influence acceptance in the circular economy.

Costs of Non-Involvement?

Although variable and obscure, the costs of opting out of a plastic survey is risky and can be detrimental in its ever-changing landscape. According to The Minderoo Foundation, conservative, near-term (2022-2030) estimates of corporate plastic liability (US only) land at around $20 billion. This liability estimates ranges from bodily injury, property damage, and loss of shareholder value. And it’s not limited to the cost of liability from “misleading consumer statements” and greenwashing, expected to be penalized with “significant fines and sanctions.” [1]

Beyond liability, operational costs are considerable as well. A study by Pew Trust foresees companies operating at business-as-usual in the 2040s accruing $100 billion in virgin plastic taxes and/or responsible disposal fees with extended producer responsibilities (EPR) [2].

Comparatively, companies that chose to act today towards reducing their plastic impact and building a solid baseline would incur a fraction (~0.5%) of the costs of greenwashing litigation or an EPR non-compliance fee. Familiarizing leadership with this topic’s go-to advisory policymakers, insurers, investors, and corporate leadership would be wise to add to your to-do list.

The intangible costs are also notable, as seen in Part I of this series. Refusing to collect sustainability data on your products’ life cycle and overall footprint excludes vital product information from your operation—closing doors on opportunities to expand consumer messaging, innovate product design, diversify market offerings, and differentiate from the competition. Without knowledge, there is little to prepare for – plastic footprinting is a unique approach to understanding potential supply chain vulnerabilities (i.e., deforestation on ingredient plantations) and exposure to public criticism (political opinion on local vs. international labor).

Is the Market Demanding More Sustainable Products?

Making operational changes can be disruptive, laborious, and expensive. If cash flow is suffering, it’s easier to justify implementing product changes that take away time and energy from sales. Business owners typically want low-risk and high ROI. Fortunately, the data highlighting the impacts of performing an analysis or “pedicure” on your products and/or business is positive. A 5-year study by NYU showed that sustainability marketed products grew more than seven times faster than their conventional counterparts, selling at a 39% higher premium [3]. The sustainability market can be considered recession-proof since this study was collected amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic [4]. With all things considered, sustainability marketed products have continued to grow throughout the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression [5]. This raises the question, is now the right time?

Who’s Holding You Accountable?

Failing to act before an official and legislative change is mandated will no doubt decrease the market effectiveness and opportunity to set yourself apart from competitors before it is streamlined and mandated. There is still time to perform a footprint analysis and implement changes before the United Nations (UN) Plastics Treaty is ratified in June and December 2023 [6].

If your company is one of the 18,000 that has disclosed to CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) for climate change, water quality, or forests in the past or funded by investors with a vested interest in public disclosure, thinking about your plastic impact may come down to bargaining with your financial support. In 2023, the CDP disclosure questionnaire piloted a new set of plastic-related voluntary questions under the Water Quality survey in a growing global response to plastic pollution disclosure and responsibility. These investors are forcing the hand of their companies, thus opening the floodgates of data needed for policymakers to make viable mandated solutions that drive actualized change [7]. This top-down pressure will only increase as the Plastics Treaty makes headway. In the wake before US-mandated disclosure breaches the horizon, familiarizing your business with the conduct of disclosure is both wise and forward-looking.

What’s Next?

The world is at the precipice of significant change—the role of plastic materials is at a tipping point, shifting in its value and applications. The United Nations Environment Programme approaches plastic circularity with three easy steps: eliminate, innovate, and circulate [8]. The role plastic footprints play in larger mitigation measures and Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) targets is just one step towards a more circular, efficient, and cost-saving operation, whether applied to events, concerts, products, or company offices or operations. Although new and sometimes misinformed, multiple data sources frame plastic mitigation and circular innovation as a sound investment, both operationally and financially. Now that you have the data to assure leadership to buy into plastic initiatives, congratulate yourself for being a thought leader towards corporate change with visible impact.

Understanding your impact is the first step towards change, and there are multiple options available for companies actively planning to meet their ESG targets.

Our global teams are ready to work with you – let’s connect, begin setting targets, assess and mitigate your plastic footprint.

[1]  The Price of Plastic Pollution: Social Costs and Corporate Liabilities

[2]  Breaking the Plastic Wave: Top Finding fo Preventing Plastic Pollution
[3]  2020 Sustainable Market Share Index (
[4]  Risk of Global Recession in 2023 Rises Amid Simultaneous Rate Hikes
[5]  The Great Lockdown: Worst Economic Downturn Since the Great Depression
[6]  Plastic Treaty progress puts spotlight on circular economy
[7]  Businesses encouraged to disclose plastics footprint through CDP for the first time
[8]  Plastic Treaty progress puts spotlight on circular economy

About the Author

Leticia Socal is a chemist and seasoned plastic industry professional with over 15 years of experience spanning R&D, intellectual property, market research & strategy. Leticia is a certified TRUE Zero Waste advisor and a Blue Consultant. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Chemistry, a Master of Science in Materials Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science.

Plastic Footprint Part I: Insights from a Case Study

Plastic Footprint Part I: Insights from a Case Study

Plastic Footprint Part I: Insights from a Case Study

by: Leticia Socal | March 22, 2023


Plastic Footprint Part 1ClimeCo’s Plastic Project Partner, The Way Project, Cote d’Ivoire

At this point, we all know there is a global crisis of plastic waste. Consumers rank plastic pollution among the top three environmental issues [1] and have started associating plastic and packaging with environmental degradation. Consumers’ expectations of companies to shift to more sustainable practices have grown. Companies started committing to plastic reduction, recyclability, recycled content, and eliminating problematic plastic. There is so much to do, but where do we begin?

Once a company understands how plastics flow in and out of its value chain, it’s easier to work on plastic mitigation strategies. Plastic footprints are a fast-evolving starter to waste mitigation. They help a company achieve its commitments and plastic-focused ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) targets. A plastic footprint measures the total amount of plastic used, calculating the baseline against which progress can be measured. Despite its straightforwardness, application, and approach may vary depending on goals, purpose, and scope. Is the footprint measuring an entire company’s operations, or only focusing on one product, or could a company want to understand the plastic footprint of a one-off event? Defining the proper scope and determining which areas of plastic usage are included or excluded at the very beginning of the process is extremely important.

Modeled after its precursor, the carbon footprint, the plastic footprint reflects a similar model—measuring, mitigating, and investing [2]. This topic has gained more attention in recent years, followed by a spike in plastic pacts, agreements, bans, and zero-tolerance statements [3]. Global trends reveal that a growing number of countries are responding to customer demand, requiring more “environmental considerations into their products [4].” Perhaps the spike is fueled by fear, opportunity, or hope. Whatever the reason, the inspiration to act, and be successful, requires a baseline from which to set a foundation. Studying a success story here is meant to guide, educate, and inspire your plastic footprint on the first step on your journey to plastic ESG.

Case Study: Plastic Footprint for a Cosmetic Business

ClimeCo examined the process and corresponding results from conducting a plastic footprint for a cosmetic business whose mission is to provide clean products with ingredient transparency and zero or low waste in its operations. Plastic footprint assessments provide the baseline for action, valuable insight for informed decisions, long-term cost savings, and partnership opportunities across the value chain.

Let’s dive deep into the process of making one of its products: a body lotion. The steps of this exercise were: 

  1. Assessing the internal plastic footprint
  2. Designing and defining (where needed) mitigation measures
  3. Enhancing product offering and marketing
  4. Creating opportunities to connect more with customers and/or existing suppliers

Like a carbon footprint assessment, the first step is defining the scope. In this case, ClimeCo looked at the inflow, operational, and outflow of plastic in the company’s value chain.

  • Inflow plastic is the packaging that enters the company’s operations attached to a product and leaves it as waste. (In this case: ingredient packaging)
  • Operational plastic, like industrial plastic, is used and disposed of during a company’s operations (In this case: plastic gloves, stirring tools, and storage containers)
  • Outflow plastic is attached to a product within a company’s operational boundaries and leaves together with the product. (In this case: the primary packaging, outer box, marketing and instructional materials, and decorative add-ons)

Cosmetic Company Footprint Scope Example - ClimeCo
After a detailed survey, we clearly defined the picture of the plastic flowing throughout the company’s operations. An assessment of the type and form of plastic packaging and material usage (single use vs. durable) was done, detailing all important data and highlighting hotspots for action. Local waste management and partnership opportunities were included in the data analysis as well. This data built a roadmap with short, mid, and long-term actions.

With zero investment, the company reduced waste sent to landfill from 62% to 30%. Reducing waste to landfill was achieved with immediate, internal changes, such as proper on-site sorting and disposal, leveraging available waste management, and a local recycling center. Improved employee training and adequate labeling of waste bins were also vital in increasing landfill diversion and reducing recycling stream contamination with non-recyclables. Changes to the product packaging were made, reducing the outflow plastic footprint from 64% diversion to zero, as part of a 100% reusable and recyclable packaging program.

Next, the company took the following external steps to mitigate its footprint further while enhancing its relationships with suppliers and customers: 

  • Initiating upstream partnerships with suppliers to return and reuse shipping containers and packaging, reducing inflow packaging.
  • Offering refill and takeback programs to customers in exchange for discounts and rewards. This is only possible because the product packaging is now durable, washable, and can be sanitized with every use.
  • Evaluating operation-related and product-related certifications such as waste diversion, plastic-free seals, and recyclability.
  • Educating customers by adding information on the takeback program, disposal options, certifications, and the plastic footprint to product marketing.
  • Improving landfill diversion through local haulers and recyclers outreach (new goal is from 30% to less than 10%).
  • Offsetting the unavoidable plastic by investing in collection & recycling activities through verified plastic credits.

Aside from enhancing product messaging, customer engagement, and reportable ESG metrics for stakeholders, the cosmetic company saw a 10% increase in overall sales and positive customer feedback. Moving forward, plans for this company include expanding the plastic footprint exercise to other products, which is an easy task to implement due to the availability of initial footprint data.

With a quantified baseline and a coherent action plan laid out, the most challenging part of creating a successful plastic ESG plan is complete. The benefits of this plan go beyond reducing pollution. You can now create value that was unattainable before.

The next step requires answering questions such as: 

  • How much money are you saving by making plastic-conscious choices?
  • What are the new marketing opportunities available?
  • What is the ROI of changing your operations to be more sustainable?

Part II of this blog will answer these questions. Actions like these will appeal to your senior management, investors, and customers alike. There is a small window available where you can act, stand out from the competition, and be a part of creating the solution. Stay tuned for our next blog, where we outline the data you need to make a case for preventing inaction.

[1]  Shelton Group, Waking the Sleeping Giant: What Middle America knows about plastic waste and how they’re taking action

[2]  ClimateTrade, The evolution of carbon footprint measurement
[3]  Reuters, Big brands call for a global pact to cut plastic production
[4]  The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The rise of single-use plastic packaging avoiders

About the Author

Leticia Socal is a chemist and seasoned plastic industry professional with over 15 years of experience spanning R&D, intellectual property, market research & strategy. Leticia is a certified TRUE Zero Waste advisor and a Blue Consultant. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Chemistry, a Master of Science in Materials Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science.

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”  Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead