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Reporting on plastic, it’s fantastic

28 April, 2023

We’ve been talking a lot about reporting recently. Two weeks ago, we published our first Friday 5 special exploring the current reporting landscape, how it’s changing and what to do about it. And this week we want to highlight CDP’s new disclosure module for plastics, incorporated into its water security questionnaire.  

Why? Well, as the adage goes, if you don’t count it, you can’t manage it. You can’t find ways to reduce impact, manage risk and avoid the reputational damage associated with getting it wrong. And despite the growing awareness of the environmental impact of plastics, progress remains slow – according to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, of the 78 million tonnes of plastic produced each year, 32% is lost to land and sea, and 40% sent to landfill. Recycling rates remain low, and with 98% of plastics made from virgin feedstock, the environmental impact of the plastics lifecycle is significant: if growth in single use plastic continues at current rates, it will account for between 5-10% of carbon emissions by 2050. So integrating questions about plastic use into disclosures in a way that is consistent, transparent and comparable makes a lot of sense. For many companies, reporting on plastic use remains a challenge, with limited guidance on what to report and how.  

Reporting has an important role to play within sustainability, driving the focus on what really matters: action to improve sustainability impacts. This new functionality provides the 18,000 organisations that already disclose other metrics through CDP with an easy reporting mechanism to disclose data on plastics. Right now, it is not mandatory, but we wouldn’t rule that out in the future.  

This move from CDP brings plastics into the mainstream, following the path it established for carbon emissions, water use and forest management, and highlighting to management teams the fact that plastic reliance is increasingly recognised by investors as a risk. Where disclosure starts, accountability and ultimately innovation and improvement follows, so this is a welcome change. 

By Marie Guérinet

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