How EY, Unilever & USAID are Uniting on Plastic Pollution

EY, Unilever & USAID have united to tackle plastic pollution
EY, Unilever and USAID have launched The Circle Alliance with an initial US$21m to support small businesses to scale solutions that reduce plastic use

EY, Unilever and USAID have pledged an initial US$21m as part of the launch of The Circle Alliance, which the three hope will help businesses and entrepreneurs to reduce plastic use.

The public-private collaboration’s aim is “to support entrepreneurs and small businesses across the plastics value chain to scale solutions that reduce plastic use, tackle plastic waste and build thriving circular economies”.

It was launched by USAID Administrator Samantha Power, Unilever CSO Rebecca Marmot and EY Global Vice Chair Sustainability Amy Brachio, along with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Dan Sullivan, the co-sponsors of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act.

EY Global Vice Chair Sustainability Amy Brachio

How will The Circle Alliance work?

The initiative aims to protect the environment and improve livelihoods by supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses – including a focus on women, who make up the majority of waste collectors in the global south.

The alliance will initially focus on India, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines and aims to scale and expand by bringing in new organisations and additional funds.

Amy said: “An estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean every year – a rate that is expected to triple in the next 20 years without urgent action.

“Deepening our relationship to our oceans is key to unlocking innovative ways to preserve and conserve it, and partnership between public and private entities is absolutely essential.”

Rebecca said: “The Circle Alliance supports Unilever’s ambition to help end plastic pollution through reduction, circulation, and collaboration.”

Unilever CSO Rebecca Marmot

Support from other groups

Circle is supported by USAID’s EDGE Fund, a seed fund designed to leverage the private sector’s expertise in confronting some of the most significant challenges of our time.

It is also backed by the GEEA Fund, which is “committed to the advancement of economic security for women and girls by increasing their access to resources, services and leadership opportunities and by addressing the barriers that limit their ability to participate fully in the economy”.

Finally, Circle is part of the US government-led Women in the Sustainable Economy (WISE) Initiative, which aims to bolster women’s economic empowerment globally by expanding access to employment, training, leadership roles and financial resources in the industries critical to our future and the future of our planet.

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Save our Seas

A press release said: “The Circle Alliance will be the flagship public-private collaboration under USAID’s Save Our Seas Initiative, a global initiative to combat ocean plastic pollution in support of the landmark Save Our Seas 2.0 Act of 2020.”

USAID said that, to date, its programmes have prevented approximately 1.2 million metric tons of plastic from leaking into the environment (the equivalent of 127 billion plastic bottles), improved solid waste services for 11.3 million people and catalysed US$138.7m of private sector and public funding commitments for solid waste management and recycling.

It outlined the strengths of the three partners, saying:

  • “USAID has technical expertise in plastic waste reduction in Southeast Asia, experience in empowering women in plastic waste value chains and long-standing local relationships with national and local governments, civil society and multilateral bodies
  • “Unilever brings knowledge and supply chain access through its growth and sustainability strategy
  • “EY is experienced in providing professional support and specialised technical assistance to businesses of all sizes, helping them grow, transform and operate
  • “Resonance, which will implement CIRCLE, brings strong experience leading and managing multi-stakeholder partnerships to drive inclusive market-based solutions to critical climate, social, and sustainability challenges.”


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