The Responsible Plastic Use Coalition: Plastic isn't Toxic
On May 12, the Canadian government added all "plastic manufactured items" to Schedule 1, the List of Toxic Substances of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). In response, a new plastics coalition has been launched in Canada. The Responsible Plastic Use Coalition (RPUC) is a group of plastic industry leaders and large manufacturers like NOVA Chemicals looking to pursue legal action against the federal government. The coalition has now filed a Notice of Application in the Federal Court of Canada challenging the order.
The group says the Order presents barriers to achieving a circular economy in Canada and will result in negative environmental outcomes, increased consumer costs, and severe market uncertainty.
“This decision is not supported by available science and will have far-reaching and unintended consequences, including those beyond our borders.” says the press release.
To help combat plastic waste, the group continues to urge the federal government to implement science-based innovative solutions, such as enhancing collection infrastructure and investing in advanced recycling, releasing the following statements.
"As one of the largest food packaging companies in Canada, we are extremely concerned about the government's efforts to declare all plastic manufactured items as toxic. Our products are designed to keep food and water safe and fresh. Canadians rely on products like ours to sustain everyday life. Designating these products as toxic is not based on science and will have significant impacts on businesses large and small across the country, including Atlantic Canada. Implying that plastic is not safe for food or our water supply is not only dangerous but completely misleading."- Stephen Emmerson, President and CEO, Emmerson Packaging.
"Plastic materials have great virtue and continue to demonstrate just how essential they are to society. Canadians deserve a responsible and effective response to the problem of waste in Canada. That response must be based on fundamental science and built upon the decades of plastic research and use. Labelling plastic as toxic is not the solution to a sustainable, circular economy that ends plastic waste. There are far more beneficial solutions to divert waste from our natural environment, and we stand ready to work with the government and all stakeholders to build a comprehensive circular economy for plastics in Canada." - Luis Sierra, President and CEO, NOVA Chemicals.
"Our company employs over 300 hard-working Canadians. With this policy, the government is carelessly attaching a toxic label to our business - ignoring the fact that our films are the most environmentally friendly products available to safely transport goods across the country. We need policy based in science, not politics."- Ricardo Cardoso, COO, Malpack Ltd.
The press release further states, plastic is not toxic. Declaring plastic manufactured items "toxic" is a significant overreach by the federal government and will have unnecessary and unintended consequences, including:
- Increasing cost and confusion for consumers and small businesses;
- Reducing investment and innovation along the plastics value chain due to uncertainty and changing regulations;
- Creating regulatory uncertainty around which additional items could eventually be banned;
- Resulting in negative environmental outcomes by promoting alternatives to plastics which have greater environmental footprints;
- Making it more difficult to create a circular economy for plastic (a system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources); and,
- Preventing new and innovative recycling pathways for plastic.
It is simply wrong to list all plastic manufactured items as toxic. The federal government's approach does not recognise that most plastic manufactured items are considered to be safe and comply with national and international standards, and in the case of plastics used for food packaging, are required to comply with federal government regulations ensuring that they are safe for use. The challenge we face is not that plastic is toxic, but rather the challenge of post-consumer plastic in the environment resulting from human behaviour and systemic waste management and recycling shortfalls.
Environment Canada has said the government is working to improve recycling standards while also tackling the amount of plastic being produced.
“We recognise that the plastics that can be easily recycled play an important role in our everyday lives and economy, as do many responsible industry leaders who are also taking action to address this issue,” said minister of environment and climate change Jonathan Wilkinson in a statement.
“When only 9 per cent of plastics are recycled, we have a serious problem that requires serious leadership.” He further stated the move to label plastics as toxic is based on facts and part of the government’s actions to ban single-use plastic in the country.
The courts will undertake a cross-examination of affidavits from both sides on the issue by August
Germany Adopts Revolutionary Supply Chain Human Rights Laws
While the title states that Germany’s newly adopted that targets human rights abuse across global supply chains is “revolutionary” ─ which it is ─, it certainly shouldn’t be. But nonetheless, today, on June 11th, 2021, the German Parliament has ushered in a long-awaited shift to mandatory company compliance rules. After months of negotiation, the German lawmakers finally pushed it over the finish line within the final days of the current legislative period. The bill will see German multinational corporations held legally responsible for any human rights or environmental abuses found across their global supply chains.
“The German government has taken a critical step to ensure that companies operate responsibly,” said Juliane Kippenberg, associate director, children's rights division, at Human Rights Watch. “Respect for human rights in global supply chains is not something that should be optional.”
This news comes at a time when global corporations are already being pushed towards environmental, social and governance (ESG) compliance, with a massive drive to reduce Scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emissions from their supply chain operations and a concerted effort to avoid suppliers and manufacturers that do not meet the standards that industry-leading companies are now expected to meet.
Who will the new law affect?
With Germany’s new legislation, organisations that fail to meet the rules and regulations could be forced to pay fines potentially equivalent to 2% of their annual global turnover. However, it isn’t applicable to all.
According to Reuters, under the act, companies above a certain size will be forced to establish set due diligence procedures that prevent the abuses; from 2023, only companies with more than 3,000 employees in Germany will be affected. From 2024, the rules will expand to companies with more than 1,000 employees.
Statistics from within the country suggest that the first stage of this regulation rollout will affect 900 companies, while the second stage will put 4,800 companies under the spotlight. The bill will also enable the government to temporarily exclude from public tenders companies that receive fines in excess of €175,000.
“Incalculable risks arise for companies,” said Joachim Lang, general manager at the Federation of German Industry. A word of warning from a respected leader, at a time when industry lobby groups and wholesale businesses fear that the new law increases bureaucracy and suggest that price rises may be inbound.
The Take of German Giants
After looking at the incoming legislation, Daimler AG, known more commonly as the automotive giant Mercedes-Benz, a company which, should there happen to be any ESG-compliance issues along its multinational supply chain, would pay a hefty fee, is welcoming of the push for change but hesitant about certain aspects of the bill.
“Daimler's position is: The respect for human rights is a central aspect of our sustainable business strategy. We, therefore, welcome the progress made on the Supply Chain Act. Although the regulations are very ambitious, the proposed legislation has a sound approach overall. It is based on internationally recognised human rights and on international agreements. And it gives companies more legal certainty in an area that has so far only been partially regulated.
Supply chains are not "chains" but rather exceedingly complex networks: Daimler alone has over 60,000 direct suppliers - and many more sub-suppliers. For this reason, we also consider the proposed risk-based gradual model to be sensible. The responsibility of the companies lies primarily in their own business area and with their direct suppliers. Companies must then take action in the deeper supply chain if there are concrete indications of human rights violations. Daimler AG already does that today.
Even though we support the proposed legislation in principle, we consider some aspects to be critical, e.g. the planned fines of up to 2% of the average annual turnover. Instead of threats of sanctions, we consider concrete measures, which companies must take in the event of deficits, to be more expedient. In addition, certain wordings are still vague and leave room for interpretation. Terms such as, e.g. "fair standard of living" should be phrased precisely in order to create legal certainty. Furthermore, documentation and reporting requirements should not lead to unnecessary bureaucracy and should be harmonised with existing rules. On the one hand, this does not help the people on the ground, and on the other hand, it puts a burden on the companies – and the implementation can pose substantial challenges for smaller companies in particular.”
This law is arguably one of the most important developments in the supply chain space so far this year. But it must be remembered that changes do not and will not happen at the push of a button and that democratic principles should be applied to the discussion prior to enshrining legislation into tablature. Environmental and human rights advocacy is a hike, not a brisk walk around the park ─ so, for German companies, it’s time to get their boots on the ground and start assessing their global, interconnected supply chain operations. And, hopefully, they’ll set a stellar example for the rest of us.