A coalition of 185 investors with a collective $10 trillion in assets stepped up pressure on companies to urgently address what they called a "plastics crisis" with growing environmental and health risks that could also hurt investment returns.
In a joint statement issued May 4 by the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development, the campaign coordinator, the investors said that plastic production and use by consumer goods companies and grocery retailers in particular "is causing untold damage to the health of people and planet."
The investor coalition includes numerous pension funds, mainly in the United Kingdom and Europe, and asset managers.
The investors said current plastic use and inadequate measures to control it also pose financial and regulatory risks to companies and to investors. "Plastics imposes an estimated externality cost on society of $350 billion per year arising from greenhouse gas emissions, ocean pollution and collection costs — at least $1,000 per [metric ton] of plastic produced," the statement said.
It noted that policymakers and societal demands are exposing companies to "significant and mounting plastic-related risks," including potential bans, taxation, reputational problems, increased litigation and increased raw material costs.
"As responsible investors, we are concerned that companies that do not proactively address these risks with actions aimed at reducing their dependence on single-use plastics may face higher costs or lose business opportunity, therefore putting long-term value creation and investment returns at risk," the statement said.