On June 17, 2020, shareholder advocacy group and non-governmental organization As You Sow announced the publication of its report that analyzes “the actions, or inactions, of 50 of the largest U.S. consumer-facing companies to reduce plastic pollution.” Specifically, these include companies in the beverage, quick-service restaurant, consumer packaged goods, and retail sectors. The highest score of B- was given to Unilever, with 12 companies receiving C grades, 22 receiving D grades, and 15 receiving F grades. It found the majority of poor and failing grades stem from “a lack of basic goal setting, strategy, and planning” needed to appropriately address the plastic pollution crisis. Overall, the report finds that “companies are far too slow in adopting responsive actions and promoting reusability, recyclability, or compostability in their packaging, and failing to shift away from wasteful packaging, toward circular models that prioritize absolute reduction.”

The grading was carried out through an evaluation of companies’ implementation of six “pillars”: (i) packaging design, (ii) reusable packaging, (iii) recycled content, (iv) data disclosure, (v) voluntary support for improving recycling systems, and (vi) mandated financial responsibility to improve those systems. The study found that the most progress has been made in pledges to redesign packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Significantly less leadership was seen within companies related to innovation of reusable packaging, data transparency, and producer responsibility.

“There’s a massive amount of work to be done,” said Conrad MacKerron from As You Sow. “This report provides a blueprint for what companies need to do to take responsibility for their plastic waste and move us to a circular economy for consumer packaging.” It outlines a set of six key recommendations for companies including:

  • Prioritize goal setting to reduce overall plastic use and reach high levels of recycled content
  • Ensure a match between packaging design and the recycling systems actually available
  • Avoid increasing the use of flexible plastics until these materials can be adequately recycled
  • Contribute 1% of annual revenue to help fund the $12 billion estimated upgrade needed in recycling infrastructure
  • Prioritize the development of long-term contracts with recyclers to create a commitment to the use of recycled plastic feedstocks

Read More

As You Sow (June 17, 2020). “Companies Fail to Address Plastic Pollution Crisis, Report Finds No Corporate Leaders, Many Laggards.”

Steve Toloken (June 18, 2020). “US-based NGO says the consumer product industry is falling short on circular plastics.” Sustainable Plastics


As You Sow (June 17, 2020). “Waste and Opportunity 2020: Searching for Corporate Leadership.”