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Why CDP introduced plastic reporting

CDP expands disclosure platform to include plastic reporting, setting up the plastic credit market for more legitimacy.

Plastic on a beach

Plastic is a big ocean problem and CDP will include it in the water report. Image via Shutterstock/ Patdanai.

Tracking and measuring has become the new norm in business in everything from clicks to emissions. In April, CDP announced that it will open its disclosure system to plastic usage reporting for the first time this year. Companies can start reporting for the 2023 year.

The plastics questionnaire will include questions on mapping plastics around a company’s value chain, direct operations, supply chain and the transportation of goods and services. CDP also wants companies to disclose risks and how they are assessing them, waste and of course reduction or recycle targets. 

"CDP is moving towards a more integrated approach towards environmental disclosure," said Simon Fischweicher, head of corporations and supply chains for CDP North America. "We are thinking about the impacts of plastic from a waste perspective. And beginning to think about our water beyond freshwater, but also our oceans. A big part of our work on plastic is connected to ocean’s health. And that was the philosophy [behind putting plastics in the water category.]"

The nonprofit formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project has collected carbon emissions data from companies, cities and countries since 2002. In 2010, the organization started collecting water usage and in 2012 it opened up its forests disclosure process. The plastic disclosure will be part of the water questionnaire for the time being but CDP might build it out in the future. 

According to Fischweicher, the most important section will be the activities section, which asks how production, packaging and other activities engage with plastic and tracks the metrics around the amounts of post-consumer or industrial plastics and virgin fossil fuel plastics in products. Companies will report their plastic usage by weight and give percentages of post-consumer, post-industrial and virgin plastics. CDP’s questionnaire is closely aligned with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s circularity principles around plastic pollution. 

"There's an opportunity for CDP to bring in more sophisticated quantitative metrics," he said. "On the biodiversity side, we incorporated those last year. On the plastic side, we are really jumping right into the nuts and bolts of quantitative measurements."

CPD’s model is really well positioned to drive not only disclosure, but actual change.

CDP invites high impact sectors including chemicals, fashion, food and beverage, fossil fuels and packaging to kick off disclosure this year. 

Increasing the tracking, transparency and reporting of plastic usage for corporations is the first step to a scheme of plastic credits that has been cropping up. Similar to carbon credits, companies have become interested in being able to claim plastic neutrality by removing the same amount of plastic from the environment as they are putting into it with new plastic products. 

PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever and Nestlé in the Philippines have pursued plastic neutrality through the nonprofit Plastic Credit Exchange. Plastic Bank and RePurpose are other organizations that sell plastic credits. Verra also has a plastic credits program that it hopes will scale up plastic collection globally. 

But plastic credits will face similar issues that have plagued the carbon crediting market, including possibly encouraging companies to continue polluting if they can just pay their way out of it with credits versus focusing on plastic removals that provide impact and additionality.

While CDP has nothing to do with the plastic or carbon crediting market, it provides the standardized framework for companies to start filling out one side of the balance sheet before making purchases on the other side. 

"CPD’s model is really well positioned to drive not only disclosure, but actual change," Fischweicher said.  "We haven't seen plastic production going down; it's gone up. So I think that there's a real opportunity to see the type of change that we thrive in on other areas, on plastics." 

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