This article was originally featured here.
By Audrey Choi, Chief Sustainability Officer and CEO of the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing
In many ways we all benefit from the innovative products and services that plastics enable throughout our lives, from our smartphones and office computers, to the transit systems that get us to work, and vital diagnostic and medical equipment.
Yet, as we discard 300 million metric tons of plastic waste every year, we struggle to find scalable, economically effective and environmentally conscious ways to reengineer and recycle plastic material, so that we can enjoy its beneficial qualities while reducing the negative effects of plastic waste.
All too often, our social feeds serve up images of plastic waste in oceans and on beaches. The scope of the problem is broad: Every minute, the equivalent of a garbage truck’s worth of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans.1 By 2050, there may be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish.2
It’s not just an environmental issue; it’s an economic issue. Up to $120 billion leaks out of the economy every year through current waste practices for single-use plastics alone.3
The central question, then, is how we maintain the benefits plastic can offer, while reducing the problems plastic waste can present for the environment and ecosystems.
Given plastic’s integral role in the economy, we recognize that no company, industry, country or alliance can turn the tide alone. We must tackle it in a systemic way that considers everything from industrial design to consumer use to recycling infrastructure. It will require the cross-sector collaboration of government, philanthropy, industry, finance and individuals.
That is why we are launching the Morgan Stanley Plastic Waste Resolution as a firmwide attempt to help address this challenge. Today, we commit to facilitating the prevention, reduction and removal of 50 million metric tons of plastic waste in rivers, oceans, landscapes and landfills by 2030.
Delivering on this commitment requires a set of integrated solutions, a holistic approach that leverages every part of the firm—from institutional securities, wealth management and asset management, to our ability to fund cutting-edge research and public involvement.
Establishing a more sustainable plastics economy will take the kind of systemic effort that Morgan Stanley is uniquely positioned to create and catalyze as a firm. We will leverage the power of capital markets to bring about these changes. It will demand sophisticated problem-solving to innovate, incubate and scale solutions that can be applied across the entire value chain.
Over the past decade, Morgan Stanley and its Institute for Sustainable Investing have focused on harnessing the power of the capital markets to protect the environment and strengthen communities as an integral part of how we do business.
The Plastic Waste Resolution continues that commitment by supporting research and thought leadership to enable us to better understand the challenges around plastic waste and the potential solutions, creating sustainable investing strategies to direct capital toward new solutions as they evolve, and encouraging capacity building among the entrepreneurs, innovators and future leaders of finance to address this issue at a systemic level.
Collectively as a firm and across each of our businesses, we are working to combat the plastic waste problem. Among our many initiatives, Global Capital Markets has recently issued a bond with the World Bank focused on reducing plastic waste in the oceans. Investment Management is creating products that consider plastic waste reduction as a core part of the underlying investment strategy. The Institutional Equities Division will explore the creation of structured financial instruments and other products that aim to help investors address the plastic waste challenge.
For a complete list of the actions that the firm is taking, and to follow our updates, please visit: www.morganstanley.com/PlasticWasteResolution.
Working to reduce the plastic waste that ends up in our oceans, rivers, landscapes and landfills is a problem as complex as it is critical. Together with our clients, staff and communities, we can make a difference.
1Pennington, James, Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans. This has to stop, World Economic Forum, October 2016.
2MacArthur, D. E., D. Waughray, and M. R. Stuchtey, “The New Plastics Economy, Rethinking the Future of Plastics,” World Economic Forum, 2016.
3MacArthur, D. E., D. Waughray, and M. R. Stuchtey, “The New Plastics Economy, Rethinking the Future of Plastics,” World Economic Forum, 2016.