As environmental consciousness increases on a global scale, it is unsurprising that consumers value sustainability more than ever when considering a product or service. With such a substantial shift taking place amongst buyers, many businesses and service providers are recognising a demand for greener practices and initiatives within their chains of operation and production. 

In fact, a global CEO study on sustainability from the UN Global Compact found that 84% of 1,000 CEOs surveyed agree that businesses must take accountability on environmental issues, following the example set by industry-leaders.  

An environmental initiative which has seen major drive on an international scale has been the goal of increased mindfulness when considering whether products are biodegradable and/or recyclable. One of the most decisive parts of this discussion is the need to reduce plastic waste on a large scale.  

The British Plastics Federation reports that while plastics fulfil several purposes in modern life and production, the issue of plastic pollution waste is an environmental concern of indisputable importance. As a result, companies must mitigate the risks of damage when considering their approach to business operations. 

One way to address and manage a corporate plastic footprint is to increase transparency in supply chain mapping, which allows consumers to access information on how the products they buy are sourced and manufactured. The ability to follow the production cycle of a product is now a meaningful part of the decision-making process for buyers and clients, with a massive 96% of the UK anticipating laws which would require manufacturers to comply with eco-friendly production rules. 

What are the main sustainability issues in the plastics industry? 

As we know, plastic waste can have astounding repercussions on the environment; around 40% of plastic is produced for single-use packaging, while over 5 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastic currently pollute our oceans – predicted to surpass marine life in volume by 2050. 

With a lifespan of 500-1000 years, plastics stay in our ecosystem for far longer than we use them in most instances, causing build-ups in landfills and oceans. This means that the waste and environmental pollution inflicted due to overconsumption of single-use and non-recyclable plastics often outweighs the convenience and advantages which businesses often sought them out for in the past. 

To remain sustainable in their manufacturing processes – and work to prevent the range of knock-on environmental and social effects caused by waste pollution – companies should be aware and accountable for the supply and use of plastic in their products and services.  

Reducing Plastic Waste – How and Why? 

Unsurprisingly, the ecological benefits of reducing plastic waste pollution can be staggering; preserving natural resources, protecting ocean and wildlife, lower CO2 emissions, etc.  

Beyond this, however, there are many other advantages to reduced plastic waste – which can affect us in ways we might not expect. 

What is Plastic Free July? 

Plastic Free July is an initiative directed by the non-profit Plastic Free Foundation organisation. As stated by the foundation, Plastic Free July aims to fulfil core values, including the belief that ‘small changes add up to a big difference’. 

With the key initiative being the pursuit of a world without plastic waste, Plastic Free July encourages millions of people across the globe to cut down on plastic waste and pollution; with many opting to make the permanent commitment to less plastic use as part of their lifestyle. 

Taking part in Plastic Free July not only makes a difference on an individual basis but contributes on a wider scale to global initiatives, including four of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals

11. Sustainable cities and communities 

12. Responsible consumption and production  

14. Life below water 

15. Life on land 

Why should we reduce the use of plastics?  

  • Cleaner air, water & food: microplastics are commonly found in our air, water, and food sources; an issue which has become a topic of major concern when considering the implications of plastic waste on health and wellbeing. With a reduction of pollution (especially in our oceans), the risk of serious health complications can be mitigated.  
  • Saving money: growth in the market of sustainable products and businesses not only means a smaller plastic footprint but can also help consumers to save money in the long term by shopping smarter with sustainable products. As they are commonly built to last as a one-off purchase or offer sustainable refills, wherein customers can reuse their old product containers over and over. 
  •  Economic Growth and Youth Employment: having taken a drastic hit during Covid-19, the UK recorded a loss and/or lack of employment in at least 500,000 young people aged 16-24 during 2020. With early unemployment in an individual’s late teenage years posing serious financial repercussions later in life, we continue to see a push for more ‘green jobs’. These will allow young people to enter fields which not only supply employment opportunities, but also help to ‘future-proof’ livelihoods by turning away from declining and planet-polluting industries. 

ESG and Corporate Social Responsibility 

With the ever-growing importance of strong business ethics to consumers, corporate social responsibility and sustainability strategies are a must-have for companies who aim to become industry-leaders. 

Consequently, business organisations must be aware of fulfilling environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria – not only to keep their status as a dependable and sustainable choice for buyers, but also to meet ethical standards which are increasingly demanded by stakeholders and investors alike. 

As public awareness of the many ways that social, economic, and environmental life is affected by plastic waste and pollution, plastic management is expected to enter the foreground as a leading factor in ESG evaluations for companies. 

Making a difference with Supply Chain Mapping 

How can supply chains reduce the amount of plastic waste? 

Supply chain mapping and transparency can help both manufacturers and consumers stay on track with their sustainable choices by opening communication about how products are supplied, manufactured, and packaged.  

By creating digital mapping systems for supplier networks, businesses can collect information and data from the supply chain to inform decisions which create a more sustainable product. 

As reducing plastic has become a particular point of concern for organisations and consumers alike, supply chain mapping can be a particularly useful tool when it comes to tracking supplier data to improve the sustainability of packaging. 

Further enhance the supply chain mapping data 

Explore our Product Specification module which assists businesses in tracking packaging types by providing a mechanism to verify packaging specifications, understand primary, secondary and tertiary packaging types, enhance recyclability transparency, improve quality control, comply with regulations, and derive valuable insights for better packaging management. 

Enable your business to conduct comprehensive assessments of your supply chains to identify the extent of plastic use.  

This will help you to identify where plastic materials are being used, in what quantities, and for what purposes. This information serves as a starting point for understanding the scope of the plastic problem within the supply chain. 

How can I make my supply chain more transparent? 

Authenticate’s Supply Chain Mapping tool will help your business stay diligent and avoid the risks hidden by traditional opaque supply chains.  

By allowing your business visibility of direct and indirect suppliers, Authenticate gives your business security and protection for people, the planet, and your brand alike. 

With support for features including location reports, a flexible product catalogue, and progress mapping capabilities, Authenticate supplies the freedom and flexibility to build a supply chain that supports your business and sustainability goals from the ground up. 

Want to improve transparency in your supply chain? Discover our platform. 

For more information on the Authenticate platform or to discuss your challenges and requirements, get in touch with the team.