How to stop the coming plastic boom

Reports call on investors and banks to quit financing single-use plastics and start enabling the circular economy

Flexible, lightweight and low-cost, plastics are the building block of the modern economy, with their use growing 20-fold in the past 50 years. But plastic’s ascendance comes with high costs and heavy burdens: the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2050, at current growth rates, there will be more waste plastic in the oceans (by tonnage) than fish.

Consumers and governments are fighting back, demanding higher recycling rates and bans on single-use plastics. In the way, however, are many of the world’s biggest fossil-fuel companies, hoping that increased plastics production will make up for shrinking oil demand as the transportation sectors shift to electric power. According to energy think tank Carbon Tracker, the U.S. petrochemical industry has invested $97 billion in new petrochemical capacity over the past decade, and was planning another $40-billion worth of expansion over the next five years.

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This Earth Day, new evidence that the planet can be saved

Earth Day 2021 feels different thanks to a torrent of actions that tell us Earthlings are getting serious about the climate

Believe it or not, the first Earth Day, celebrated in the U.S. in 1970, saw Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, farmers and city dwellers, executives and labour leaders, unite against pollution and oil spills. The effort directly spurred the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and several first-ever environmental laws. Since that fast start, the fight to save the earth has gone global, but progress has often stalled.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said recently, 2021 will be “a make or break year” to confront the climate emergency. In business and government, he said, “decision-makers must walk the talk.”

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Prince Charles, Matt Damon call for wave of investment in water crisis

Prince of Wales launches accelerator aimed at fast-tracking sustainable investments in climate-resilient water programs

Natural disasters are occurring with increased ferocity around the world. But for communities living in extreme poverty, the climate crisis only exacerbates the struggle to access enough clean water to meet their basic needs.

In response, on the 25th anniversary of the UN’s World Water Day March 22, the Prince of Wales launched a sustainable finance accelerator aimed at fast-tracking investments in climate-resilient water programs for up to 50 million people in water-stressed areas by 2030.

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Extinction Rebellion calls for financial disobedience

“Money Rebellion” campaign calls for debt and tax strikes, targeting banks and investors that fund fossil-fuel companies

In fall 2018, London faced a blizzard of fierce, smart protests. In October, a thousand people occupied the street in front of the fabled Houses of Parliament. In November, activists blockaded government offices, glued themselves to the gates of Downing Street, blocked traffic and occupied five bridges over the River Thames.

That was the public’s introduction to Extinction Rebellion (XR), a direct-action group inspired by 100 British academics and scientists who publicly expressed concerns about the environmental crisis and their disgust with society’s failure to confront it. XR demands that the U.K. government tell the truth about climate and reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2025.

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Want to perform better? Become worker-owned

By reinventing employee ownership, Social Capital Partners (SCP) may have found the next step in Canadian prosperity

After 20 years of fighting income inequality, Toronto-based Social Capital Partners (SCP) thinks it has found a way to move the needle on Canadian prosperity: by reinventing employee ownership.

SCP was founded by tech entrepreneur Bill Young, who made two fortunes in the 1990s and has spent 20 years giving away money to boost the prosperity of people who face employment barriers. SCP has gone through three phases: investing directly in social enterprises, developing innovative social-finance tools, and promoting innovative employee-training programs. Now Young and his team are focusing on a new solution: enhancing workers’ capital, rather than income, to increase prosperity and their resilience to economic shocks (say, the next pandemic).

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Knight Bites: Amazon plastic is flooding the world

Amazon plays major role in ocean plastic pollution, says Oceana Canada. Our illustrator outlines what it means for the planet

Amazon is playing a major role in ocean plastic pollution, according to a report by Oceana Canada. Between all the plastic "air pillows," bubble wrap and other plastic packaging items padding approximately seven billion Amazon packages delivered in 2019, Oceana estimates that Amazon generated 211 million kilograms of plastic packaging waste last year.

"In Canada, Amazon’s plastic footprint is disproportionately large, generating an estimated 21.3 million kilograms of plastic waste in 2019 – 1.2 times more than in India, and more than Japan, Brazil, Spain and Mexico combined."

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Remembering Peter Gorrie

Celebrating the life of longtime CK contributor

The staff of Corporate Knights celebrates the life of Peter Gorrie, a longtime contributor who passed away Jan. 4th at the age of 71. Peter covered environmental issues for more than 30 years, with a focus on climate change, biodiversity, renewable energy and the North.

An avid traveler, canoeist and truth-teller, Peter helped pioneer environmental journalism in Canada through his work at the Toronto Star. Over the last decade, he wrote regularly for Corporate Knights, on subjects as varied as biogas, advanced battery technologies and urban flood risks, although his passion was electric vehicles. Former CK editor Tyler Hamilton remembers Peter as dependable, soft-spoken and thoughtful: “Skeptical, as any good journalist should be, but not to the point of being jaded.”

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Canadian banks start doing the math on climate change risks

Bank of Canada working with financial sector to get a grip on how climate change scenarios will affect their bottom line

At long last, Canada may have reached the point where climate change is no longer a political issue, but rather a clear problem that needs to be solved.

As evidence, take Tiff Macklem. Appointed last June as the 10th governor of the Bank of Canada, his job is to ensure the stability of Canada’s financial system. With the bank’s tradition of political independence, and most of his seven-year term still to come, Macklem can afford to confront the climate threat head-on. 

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Our top five sustainability stories of 2020

Why we think change is not just possible – it’s already happening

Is there reason to be optimistic in the fight for clean capitalism? Corporate Knights thinks so, and our readers clearly believe it, too. We’ve compiled a list of Corporate Knights’ five most popular stories of 2020. They cover a broad range of topics: two of our renowned “lists,” one radical proposal from an oil-industry executive, our big roundtable initiative and an offbeat tale of how Ottawa’s reforestation program literally missed the forest for the trees.

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If fashion brands to build back better they’ll have to #PayUp billions in unpaid wages

Fashion brands were pressured to #payup billions to overseas workers left in pandemic lurch, but wages still in free fall

Workers and fashion-loving consumers alike are fighting back against the world’s top fashion brands, which has left independent suppliers in the lurch for up to US$40 billion in unpaid bills.

When COVID struck and the malls shut down, more than 2,000 retail and fashion companies abruptly cancelled thousands of orders, many failing to pay even for those that had been completed. The small suppliers who produce some of the world’s best-known brands – The Gap, Nike, Primark, H&M and hundreds more – were forced to cut staff or even close their doors, leaving millions of workers struggling to feed their families.

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