Surfrider Foundation denounces fashion labelsâ ‘false solutions’ against plastic pollution

Surfrider Foundation denounces fashion labels’ ‘false solutions’ against plastic pollution

Translated by

Nicola Mira

US environmental NGO Surfrider Foundation (SF) has denounced the “five main avoidance strategies” it believes are being deployed by corporations to “delay reducing plastic usage.” In a reportNestlé, UnileverAdidasIKKS

Surfrider Foundation has published a report denouncing the strategies used by corporations to avoid reducing plastic pollution – AFP

The avoidance strategy utilised by a number of fashion industry players, including Adidas and IKKS, consists, according to the report, in making advertising claims that “[aim] to convince consumers that their products are part of the solution to ‘save the environment’.”

The report stated that “the protection of the ocean – and marine plastic pollution – recently has become one of these good-selling causes adopted by many companies. Unfortunately, a great deal of emotional storytelling ends up promoting false solutions – recycled plastic or bioplastics – that are now known to be incapable of resolving the plastic crisis. In recent years, more and more so-called ‘green’ products that could ‘save (or clean) the ocean’ have appeared on the market. Their claims are counterproductive: the ocean will neither be cleaned nor saved with such solutions. But they also mislead consumers who agree to pay more for a non-existent effect. Even worse, by eliminating scruples on overconsumption, such claims contribute to increase sales and will thus have an even bigger negative impact on the environment.”

SF has singled out Adidas and IKKS, two brands whose advertising campaigns, according to the report, have been found to be at odds with the recommendations of France’s advertising standards watchdog. Specifically, a campaign by Adidas for a model of the Stan Smith

Incensed by this, SF and other organisations are aparently ready to come forward and denounce campaigns and story-telling they regard as misleading, and to accuse consumer brands of greenwashing.

In the report, SF invited corporations across all industries to commit to a genuine transformation. It outlined “five recommendations,” which include that corporations should publish a “full annual plastic assessment” disclosing their plastic usage, and that they “define a de-plastification pathway.”

Fashion wasn’t the only industry that SF identified as problematic. Another strategy singled out by the report is the attempt by corporations to shift the blame “by emphasising the role of citizens and local councils in managing the plastic crisis, thereby minimizing their own role and duty to decrease their plastic use.” The report lambasted Nestlé for involving consumers and local authorities in two of its sustainable packaging strategy’s five pillars, while the group stated it has reduced the weight of its products’ packaging from 4.5 million tons in 2020 to 3.6 million tons in 2022.

SF also denounced how corporations like TotalEnergies keep investing in new ways to produce raw and recycled plastic and bioplastics. It lamented the “smoke and mirrors strategies” used by corporations that “seek to make poor plastic reduction performance (…) more beautiful with flattering or unclear calculation methodologies, reporting and rating tools,” citing Unilever as an example, and speaking out against what SF called “the misleading concept of ‘plastic neutrality’.”

Finally, the report unpacked the policies adopted by Coca-Cola as an example of a corporation that, according to SF, “[has] become expert at discreetly defying plastic regulations.” Philippine Huc of Surfrider Foundation Europe, speaking at a press conference, said that “corporations must stop relying on false solutions and start de-plastifying their businesses, because this is the only tool to fight against global plastic pollution and its devastating consequences for the environment and humankind.”

Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Unilever are part of a consortium of corporations that are “in favour of drawing up an ambitious, effective international agreement to end plastic pollution,” currently being negotiated under the aegis of the UN. The agreement will be the international community’s response to the growing issue of plastic pollution, as the annual output of plastic (460 million tons) has more than doubled in 20 years, and is set to triple by 2060. Of this output, only 9% is recycled. Plastic waste in all shapes and sizes has been found on the ocean floor and on mountain summits, and microplastics have been detected even inside the human body.

With AFP

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