4 major food retailers score lowest on plastic pollution scoreboard

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As You Sow pulled out his Corporate plastic pollution scoreboard 2021 analyzing the actions and inactions of 50 of America’s largest consumer-facing companies to reduce plastic pollution.

The non-profit organization promotes corporate environmental and social responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building and innovative legal strategies. One of its main initiatives concerns plastic pollution.

About 11 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year – an amount that is expected to nearly triple by 2040 without urgent and large-scale action, according to a study by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SystemIQ, a consultancy firm. in sustainable development based in London.

“Companies are now more aware of the plastic pollution crisis they have helped create, but knowledge is not enough” said Kelly McBee, waste program coordinator at Based in Berkeley, California As you sow and the author of the report. “Rapid and decisive action on the part of packaging producers is needed to ensure that what they produce is not only recyclable, but actually recycled on a large scale. “

Among the six lowest-ranked companies on the As You Sow dashboard are four grocery retailers. The lowest ranked companies by revenue size, including their As You Sow scores, are:

  • Amazon, D-, $ 386 billion
  • Costco, F, $ 167 billion
  • Walgreens, D-, $ 140 billion
  • The Kroger Co., D, $ 122 billion

These brands contrast with the messages that retailers have spread over the year. For example, according to its recent report on sustainable development, Amazon’s Whole Foods Market stores have switched to smaller plastic product bags and replaced all plastic roast chicken containers with bags that use about 70% less plastic. Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods are also rolling out a recyclable curbside solution to keep groceries frozen or chilled during delivery. This new packaging is made with recycled paper and eliminates the need for plastic liners or bubble bag insulation.

Additionally, Kroger simplified flexible plastic packaging recycling in April by expanding its Simple Truth recycling program to include all of the grocer’s private labels, including Private Selection, Kroger Brand, Comforts, Luvsome and Abound. Then there’s Kroger’s ESG report, which touted the use of reusable solutions in its supply network.

As You Sow attributes the high number of poor ratings and failures to a lack of basic goal setting, strategy and action to switch from disposable to reusable packaging to effectively tackle the plastic pollution crisis .

Meanwhile, among the top six companies are two grocery retailers: Walmart Inc. and Target Corp., both rated C +. The two companies recently teamed up to test new retail bag solutions to tackle plastic waste. The drivers are intended to help refine winning solutions of the Beyond the Bag global innovation challenge to advance sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic bags.

As You Sow posted his highest grade, a B, to The Coca-Cola Co, based in Atlanta. The main contributions to the grade of Coca-Cola are the high degree of transparency in its use of packaging, a firm commitment to recycle any containers it puts on the market and its support producer responsibility initiatives. Coca-Cola is the only company in the report to disclose the number of units of plastic packaging it produces. CPG also has reported 60% progress towards its 2030 goal of recycling a bottle or can for each product.

While As You Sow has seen significant progress in some areas, such as a sharp increase in commitments to reduce the use of virgin plastic for packaging, its report echoes previous findings that no company is acting with it. sufficiently strong policies.

“Pollution from plastic packaging is increasingly becoming a risk for businesses in direct contact with consumers – regulatory risk, financial risk, supply chain risk and, most importantly, brand risk.” said Bruno Monteyne, senior analyst at Bernstein Autonomous, a London-based global equity research firm.

According to a survey of 661 consumers conducted last year by Pinpoint Software, based in Madison, Wisconsin, more than 57% of consumers said plastic and packaging waste is the most important sustainability initiative. grocery stores.

“We know that some top performing companies have failed to deliver on their commitments in the past, so we will be monitoring them closely to see if they are preaching and achieving their goals.” McBee said. “It is extremely important for investors, policymakers and the public to hold these companies accountable for taking bold and sustained action. “

As You Sow has noticed less leadership in the area of ​​recycling support, with only 5% of the $ 17 billion needed to expand and modernize recycling infrastructure in the United States having been secured to date. The scorecard results indicate that companies have a long way to go to switch from single-use plastics, dramatically increase recycling yields, and build a truly circular plastics economy.

When developing the dashboard, As you sow solicited input from industry leaders, including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The Recycling Partnership, and US Plastics Pact, to develop 44 metrics to assess corporate action.

Seattle-based Amazon is # 2 on Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the best food and consumables retailers in North America, while its Austin, Texas-based subsidiary Whole Foods is # 26 on the. list of PG. Costco, based in Issaquah, Wash., Is No. 4, Walgreens, based in Deerfield, Ill., Is No. 5, Kroger, based in Cincinnati, is No. 3, Walmart, based in Bentonville , in the Ark, is No. 1 and Target Corp, based in Minneapolis. . is n ° 6 on the PG 100.

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