Unilever CEO: Here’s How to Secure a Global Plastics Treaty

Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher
Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher sets out a roadmap to a Global Plastics Treaty as Coca-Cola, Morgan Stanley & SAP help to pile pressure on governments

Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher has set out a roadmap to a Global Plastics Treaty – warning that there is “no time to waste”.

Hein represented the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty at the latest round of negotiations in Ottawa, which made progress but did not achieve a significant breakthrough.

Afterwards, he wrote a straight-talking blog on the company website, in which he spelled out why a treaty is “exactly what business needs”.

Plastic pollution (Credit: Getty Images)

What is Hein saying?

Hein wrote that the negotiations are at a “critical juncture”.

He said: “Unilever and the Business Coalition are calling for global rules because voluntary initiatives alone will not solve the crisis. Furthermore, at Unilever, we know that for us to deliver on our plastic packaging commitments, we need all actors to pull in the same direction.”

He made a plenary speech in Ottawa, where he urged governments to put in place policies that level the playing field.

In his blog, he added: “Business responds to regulatory certainty, but the reality is we are facing a hugely fragmented policy environment for packaging from country to country.

“A treaty can harmonise this landscape, helping to simplify our supply chains, scale existing solutions and spur further innovation.”

Clearing up plastic

What is the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty?

The Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty is a group of over 200 organisations from across the plastic value chain which believe a legally binding treaty is the best way to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

The policy working group includes:

  • Allison Lin, Global VP Packaging Sustainability, Mars, Inc.
  • Ben Jordan, Senior Director, Environmental Policy, The Coca-Cola Company
  • Carolyn Panzarella, Associate Manager, Global Environmental Policy, PepsiCo, Inc.
  • David Clark, VP Sustainability, Amcor
  • Jodie Roussell, Global Public Affairs Lead, Packaging & Sustainability, Nestlé
  • Ed Shepherd, Senior Global Sustainability Manager, Circular Economy, Unilever
  • Joost Koomen, Global Public Affairs Director Environment, Essity AB
  • Joséphine Denise, Sustainability Public Affairs Manager, Danone
  • Maccon Field, Government Relations | Communications | Strategy, Kimberly-Clark
  • Patrick Shewell, Global Sustainability Packaging, Mondelez International
  • Punjanit Leagnavar, Global Director, Environmental Policy, L’Oreal S.A.
  • Sabine Strnad, Senior Manager Circular Economy & Packaging, Henkel AG
  • Tom Smith, Global Government Affairs, Walmart Inc.
Youtube Placeholder

Promising signs

Hein said he was encouraged that the treaty text is being streamlined, while measures across the full life-cycle of plastic remain.

The Business Coalition’s priority areas are included – restrictions and phase-outs, product design and extended producer responsibility.

Hein said: “Agreeing global rules in these areas is not only achievable, it will also accelerate the voluntary work already being done by the industry.

“Furthermore, the mandate for intersessional work is very significant. This will allow for much-needed technical discussions, improving the chances of text alignment ahead of INC5.”

Reduction is a key area

Hein said plastics reduction is the “quickest way to cut plastic pollution.

“But how the treaty will seek to reduce virgin plastic production remains unclear. The same can be said for how it will help scale reuse and refill models.

“I was encouraged to see growing momentum behind calls for reduction policies, including the proposal from Peru and Rwanda for intersessional work in this area – something we support. With just a few months to go, this crucial element still does not have a clear path forward.

“We believe governments should prioritise discussions on upstream measures such as phasing out problematic and avoidable plastic products in a globally coordinated way, and harmonising design criteria for plastic packaging.”

He added: “While these will be the more difficult conversations to have, global rules in these areas will provide business with the certainty needed to scale existing solutions, spark innovation and mobilise investment.”

He ended the blog on an upbeat note, saying there are growing signs at INC4 that a treaty with global rules on upstream and downstream measures is within reach.


Make sure you check out the latest edition of Sustainability Magazine and also sign up to our global conference series - Sustainability LIVE 2024


Sustainability Magazine is a BizClik brand



Featured Articles

Sustainability LIVE heads to Chicago in 2025

Sustainability LIVE expands its in-person events to the US with Sustainability LIVE Chicago in 2025, co-located with P&SC LIVE and Manufacturing LIVE

Packet Power Sustainably Meets AI's Demand for More Power

Achieve greater power density for AI and improve sustainability with wireless monitoring

Electriq Power Bankruptcy: Moecker Auctions Liquidate US$18m

Moecker Auctions, Inc. has been selected by Trustee Robert Furr to liquidate more than US$18 Million in assets from Electriq Power Holdings Ch.7 Bankruptcy

SAVE THE DATE – Sustainability LIVE Malta 2024


Tech Leadership in Sustainability: CGG Rebrands as Viridien


COMING SOON – Top 250 Companies in Sustainability 2024