According to a report published by the charity today (9 September), fast-moving consumer goods companies and grocery retailers – referred to by Client Earth as ‘Big Food’ – are responsible for the bulk of single-use plastics on the market, however “fail to recognise, report and act” on the risks of plastic packaging.
The charity added that this puts them “at risk” of legal action, and their shareholders in line for financial losses.
The report argues that organisations are also not doing enough to mitigate these risks or addressing their “addiction” to single use plastics.
It accuses supermarket chains of treating the issue as a “PR problem” rather than a serious source of risk to their business.”
Off the back of the report, Client Earth’s lawyers urge investors, asset managers and financial advisors to engage with retailers to push for “greater transparency, more ambitious targets and more effective policies” from plastics.
ClientEarth plastics lawyer and report author Rosa Pritchard said: “The time is up for single-use plastics but Big Food is burying its head in the sand. A slew of stricter laws on single-use plastics are rapidly making our continued reliance on plastic packaging untenable, and consumers are turning their back on single-use plastic culture.
“Yet the companies behind many of our household brands are treating the plastics crisis as a PR problem, rather than a serious and escalating business risk.
“Big Food is facing major financial headwinds and yet many are not disclosing the looming financial impacts of their reliance on plastic to investors – something they are legally required to do. This omission puts them at risk of legal action.”
“Investors and other financial institutions have a huge amount of leverage with Big Food. They could demand better performance from businesses on their plastic strategies or decide to invest elsewhere to avoid plastic-related business risks – as they too are not immune to serious financial consequences.”
The report comes at a time when a string of supermarket chains have been announcing plastic packaging reduction initiatives in recent months.
Since the turn of the year, all the ‘big-six’ supermarkets have introduced soft plastic collection points in some stores, and there are regular announcements on steps they’re taking to further reduce plastic.