More than 740 financial institutions holding $136 trillion in assets are, for the first time, seeking plastics pollution-related environmental impact disclosures from thousands of companies.
The financial groups, including the insurer Aviva, the European Investment Bank and the New York State Common Retirement Fund, made the request in a March 13 letter to 15,000 companies worldwide. It's part of an annual request they make, working with the nonprofit disclosure group CDP, seeking information on climate, biodiversity and other environmental concerns.
Adding plastics-related environmental data to their request comes after CDP announced in September that it was expanding its corporate disclosure system to include plastics pollution-related information.
In a statement, London-based CDP pointed to what it said is a 10 percent increase this year in the number of financial institutions requesting this disclosure through CDP's platform and said it shows that lenders and financiers increasingly are seeking more information to measure potential risk from environmental exposure.
"Despite suggestions that investors are deprioritizing ESG [environmental, social and governance] considerations, this year's [letter] shows the complete opposite," said Paul Dickinson, founding chair of CDP. "Capital markets understand the necessity for comprehensive corporate environmental data in informing investment and lending decisions across markets."
CDP said there were more than 18,000 corporate disclosures last year, an increase of nearly 40 percent, but it pointed to what it called some notable laggards in responding, including Berkshire Hathaway, ExxonMobil, Tesla Inc. and Saudi Aramco.
The letter comes six months after CDP announced it was adding plastics pollution to its disclosure work, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Minderoo Foundation and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
CDP said the corporate sector faces a financial risk of $100 billion a year if governments require companies to cover waste management costs, but it said many companies have only a limited understanding of that risk.
The organization said it would start including questions and metrics around plastics on its annual questionnaires. CDP said at the time it would fully launch its plastics disclosure in April.
"CDP's approach is based on our knowledge that governments, companies and investors cannot manage what they do not measure, so expanding knowledge and data on corporate plastic use, obtained through disclosure at scale, is essential to solving the plastics problem," said Nicolette Bartlett, chief impact officer.
In a joint statement, CDP and its partners said they wanted CDP's plastics project to expand on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's existing corporate reporting work on plastics but include more companies and more metrics.
The project aims to create a plastics disclosure platform that will "rival those in existence for carbon emissions," said Winnie Lau, project director for Pew's preventing ocean plastics project.