Last week, I was privileged to represent the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) at the global launch of a new initiative that has the potential to be a game-changer in sustainability practice.

The new Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) is a landmark effort from nearly 30 global organizations representing the plastic value chain, who have joined together to collectively address the problem of plastic waste in the environment.

The headline number here? USD $1 billion has been committed, over the next five years, to this goal and the AEPW hopes to see more companies join and take the total to USD $1.5 billion.

That’s a real and significant investment that shows these companies are serious and they are taking action.

WBCSD played a critical role in the formation of this new alliance. We first began discussing the possibility of an initiative like this at our annual meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, last year, progressing the conversation throughout the year as more and more companies threw their weight and momentum behind the idea.

Less than 12 months later it is heartening to see our plans coming to fruition on such an unprecedented scale. This is the most comprehensive cross-value chain initiative of its kind to end plastic waste in the environment.

Plastic waste in the environment, particularly the ocean, is a serious global challenge that calls for swift action and strong leadership. I am proud to say that of the 28 organizations that make up the Alliance, 16 are members of WBCSD. The speed at which these companies have mobilized to develop a global action plan deserves admiration and praise.

As we all know, no single company can solve a complex issue like that of plastic waste in the environment. The process is complicated, and it will take time to solve.

Together, we have proven that business is stepping up to address one of the most critical issues of our time.

I see that there are three things are needed to successfully end plastic in the environment.

  1. Leadership is essential, and it is wonderful to see the CEOs of the Alliance investing towards a common goal
  2. Developing tangible projects, with targeted for maximum impact. The Alliance will invest in projects in four strategic pillars: infrastructure, innovation, education and clean up.
  3. Working together with governments, other existing initiatives and stakeholders in order to scale up action that can transform the plastic problem.

Collaboration is essential and the establishment of the Alliance underscores WBCSD’s members capacity to drive unprecedented investment that will deliver significant positive impacts around the world.

WBCSD will continue to play a role in the Alliance going forward, as a founding strategic partner, to ensure business mobilization and global sharing of best practice so that the world can achieve the ambitious goal of ending plastic waste.

However, what I found most interesting is the example that this Alliance brings to other value chains and other environmental challenges. There is a moment when business steps up to the challenge and decides to tackle important environmental and social challenges and WBCSD is ready to help make this happen.

I encourage every company in the plastic value chain to join the Alliance and help turn this vision into a reality. Business must follow this lead and address collaboratively the world’s largest environmental and social challenges. Together, we can make this change happen.

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