Waste Not
Helping PDP Engage Brands to Revalue Plastic

This post is part of a series written by MBA and MPA candidates in Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course, examining the role of marketing in advancing sustainability across all sectors.

As a Sustainable Management MBA student at Presidio Graduate School, I get the great opportunity to work for organizations outside the school almost every semester. Our Experiential Learning (EL) program allows us to do hands-on consultation work with organizations in the public and private sector that are battling sustainability challenges. We apply our curriculum and provide solutions and recommendations for organizations to achieve tangible results four times throughout our MBA program. This semester, for my Managerial Marketing course, I’m working on an exciting project with four other students for the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP).

The Plastic Disclosure Project works to address the growing concern with plastic pollution. Announced at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative, PDP is now backed by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Bank, which have ocean protection programs. PDP sees plastic pollution as a global problem, where “85 percent of total plastic used is not recycled,” and plastic negatively affects human and animal health and pollutes our waterways. For instance, just recently, a grey whale was found dead from intestinal blockage on an island in the Netherlands with a stomach full of plastic.

PDP sees a solution to this growing problem. Its goal is to “measure, manage, reduce and then benefit” from plastic usage. They see an influential need for companies to start disclosing their plastic footprint in order to create a benchmark for reduction by increasing recycling and adding value back into plastic use. Another key driver for PDP is to encourage sustainable business practices and create a network of businesses and organizations that will inspire and share innovative solutions to reduction.

PDP is strongly driven by its environmental values and our team has been able to help the organization with its marketing materials, which in turn should help it get in front of more disclosers. Many companies these days are benchmarking and monetizing their carbon emissions and setting goals for reduction 5-10 years out. What will it take for organizations to start taking a closer look at their plastic use? Plastic pollution is a large environmental problem, and one that is totally preventable. Although completely eliminating plastics use would be next to impossible, reduction and longer use per ton of material is key to lowering consumption.

Sustainability had been creeping into the business world for the last couple decades and increasingly companies will need to innovate and be ahead of the game. Waste and supply chain concerns are quickly becoming the next wave in corporate social responsibility.Our team has determined that, for PDP to be effective, it needed a strategic approach to its partnerships, focusing on the consumer goods, airline, and food and beverage industries; PDP needs to show these industries the value and power of disclosing their plastic use.

Coca-Cola & Walmart have begun to measure their plastic consumption; P&G has developed a new process to mold plastic that it claims uses less plastic, increases recyclability and could save the company $1 billion a year; Amazon now offers 200,000 products in “frustration-free,” recyclable cardboard boxes in an effort to eliminate its use of hermetically sealed clamshell cases and plastic-coated steel-wire ties; and Starbucks and Target both plan to reduce their overall waste and increase recycling – all of which go hand in hand with PDP’s work. If companies can come together and share their innovations and ideas for reducing plastic consumption, it will create competitive advantage, better brand image and a more holistic approach to sustainability in the long term. PDP’s work is at the cutting edge of expanding corporate responsibility concerns and will continue to make the case for revaluing and re-evaluating organizations’ plastic consumption.

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