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Fast Company reports on the annual ranking of the globe's biggest plastic polluters, and concluded that the 10 biggest offenders are Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris, and Perfetti Van Melle - in other words, all companies that make products sold on the shelves of almost every supermarket in the world.

"It’s not a big shocker that giant corporations that make bottled drinks—C0ca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo—are the world’s biggest plastic polluters," Fast Company writes. "But what’s a little disturbing is that these three companies were named the top plastic polluters last year as well, and none of them appear to have done anything significant to change their place in this shameful ranking."

The story notes that "these brands have expanded to every part of the globe, selling their plastic-encased fizzy drinks, potato chips, shampoo, and toothpaste to people everywhere." While "developed countries have waste-management systems that collect our plastic, which is then either put in landfills, incinerated, or recycled," developing countries tend to have less advanced waste-management facilities," which means that "plastic waste is much more visible, littering the streets and washing ashore on beaches."

The rankings were compiled by BreakFreeFromPlastic, described as "a three-year-old organization consisting of nearly 1,500 companies working to tackle plastic pollution. The organization issues an annual ranking of the world’s top plastic polluters. The list takes a lot of work to produce. This year, the organization engaged 72,541 volunteers across 51 countries to conduct 484 brand audits. The volunteers collected plastic waste close to where they lived, amounting to 476,423 pieces of plastic, 43% of which was clearly marked with a consumer brand. Plastic was cataloged in every part of the globe, including remote regions of Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Bhutan."

Here's one of the questions being posed:

"Given how much we know about plastic’s impact on the world, should these plastic polluters be made to pay for all of this destruction? It’s something worth considering. Part of the problem is that it’s hard to put an exact price on the damage plastic causes to the planet and humans. But perhaps it’s time for economists to begin quantifying it so that governments can impose taxes on these companies for healthcare costs, carbon emissions, and cleanup."

Indeed, increased concerns about plastics are being manifested in other ways. Bloomberg reports on how, after four decades of significant and seemingly unending growth, the bottled water business seems to run into a kind of dam - in the form of environmental concerns.

Here's how the story is framed:

"Increasing concern about the carbon and plastic waste generated by that process is fueling a backlash that threatens the business. Across the industry, sales are softening and some towns (from Concord, Massachusetts, to San Francisco, California) are even banning plastic water bottles - spurring producers to respond with alternatives ranging from canned water to flavor pods for tap water to dispensers that sell sparkling and flavored mixes."

Examples of the impact this consciousness raising has had on business:

"Danone, the maker of Evian, on Oct. 18 reported its biggest decline in quarterly water revenue in a decade. That same day, Coca-Cola Co. said water sales were lower than it expected.

"With shipments headed for a second annual decline, Nestle is reorganizing its bottled water business. Buffeted by lower-price rivals and high transport costs, Nestle raised prices—which sapped sales of its mass-market offerings such as Poland Spring and Pure Life as consumers shifted to cheaper generic brands."

The story says that "with bottled water now outselling carbonated soft drinks in the U.S., one part of that “something” is aluminum cans filled with water. Coke introduced cans of Dasani in the northeast U.S. this year and plans to try selling it in aluminum bottles in 2020. Pepsi has been selling canned Aquafina at restaurants and stadiums and is testing it in stores." And, some companies are testing the addition of various flavors and fizz to traditional waters in order to create the perception of greater and differentiated value.

It remains debatable how effective measures like these will be, as Howard Telford, head of soft drinks at Euromonitor, tells Bloomberg that all these changes point "“to a future where flavor, carbonation, and functional additives - rather than disposable packaging and simple convenience - could be the main value drivers in packaged water."
KC's View:
Yet another example of how it may not just be about value anymore … but values in a global sense. And all these companies have to be aware of the new environment (and I mean environment in a variety of ways).