Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Product Sustainability Program Gains Momentum Throughout World


By Michael Taylor, SPI Senior Director International Affairs & Trade

Sustainability has received a great deal of attention from the public, media and the business community for a number of years. Yet, there are still those that believe that sustainability is more of a public relations ploy than an issue with real implications for business performance and resiliency.

For the business community, sustainability goes well beyond mere window-dressing. By adopting sustainable practices, companies can improve their competitive position, increase their market share, and boost shareholder value. Oftentimes business sustainability is defined as a process whereby companies manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. A shortened form of the impacts referred to here consists of profits, people and planet.

This accounting-based approach, however, does not take into full consideration the time element that is inherent within business sustainability. With time taken into consideration, a more appropriate definition of business sustainability is resiliency over time, thus those businesses that can survive shocks do so because they are connected to healthy economic, social and environmental systems.

There are a number of best practices that advance business sustainability and permit companies to establish themselves as leaders in this space.  These practices include stakeholder engagement, environmental management systems, reporting and disclosure, and life-cycle analysis.

Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) is an international product stewardship program designed to prevent resin pellet loss and help keep pellets out of the marine environment. The OCS program is administered by SPI:  The Plastics Industry Trade Association and the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division.

In the OCS program, every segment of the plastics industry has a role to play – including resin producers, transporters, bulk terminal operators and plastics processors – by implementing good housekeeping and pellet containment practices.

The goal: achieving zero pellet loss.

Zero Pellet Loss is a priority for the plastics industry—and a critical issue for the environment. Spilled pellets can make their way into local waterways and ultimately estuaries and the ocean. This isn’t just an eyesore and a litter issue; pellets, if accidentally mistaken for food by birds or marine animals, could harm them. That’s why the industry is behind Zero Pellet Loss—and it can only be achieved by everyone working together. The OCS Program was created to help businesses that handle pellets protect the environment and keep it clean.

OCS is not simply promoted at the company/facility level in the U.S. alone.  The program is also promoted by plastics industry associations around the world.  When a foreign association becomes an international partner, they promote OCS to their member companies and within their own country.  At this time, there are 14 country associations and one multi-country association signed on as international partners to promote the program.  The map below shows those parts of the globe that are already a part of ongoing OCS promotion and those that are considering joining the promotion effort

You can see just how much of the world’s coastlines are engaged currently, and just how much more we need to get on board.

Most recently, there was a surge in membership in the Americas with several associations joining along with the significant addition of PlasticsEurope.  In the Americas, associations in Brazil (ABIPLAST – Associação Brasileira da Indústria do Plástico), Chile (ASIPLA – Asociación Gremial de Industriales del Plástico de Chile), Colombia (ACOPLÁSTICOS), Costa Rica (ACIPLAST – La Asociación Costarricense de la Industria del Plástico) and Ecuador (ASEPLAS – La Asociación Ecuatoriana de Plásticos) are now set to promote the OCS program in their respective countries.  Of course, Europe has been a traditional leader in promoting the global environment and sustainability.  It is very good, however, to see the Latin and South American region showing leadership in these globally important areas too.

If you could take a simple step to help strengthen your company’s:

  • sustainability initiatives;
  • contribution to preserving water quality and wildlife;
  • compliance with federal and state regulations and avoidance of fines;
  • safety/housekeeping program;
  • employees’ well-being;
  • operational efficiency;
  • financial bottom line; and
  • reputation in the community…

…would you take it?

OCS as a product stewardship program is truly a no-brainer.  It is a proven program that is doing something positive about protecting the global environment.  As a best practice from a business sustainability perspective, it is equally a no-brainer. Business growth and environmental conservation can go hand in hand and there are tangible economic benefits derived from growing sustainably. For example, companies that are more sustainable are also more innovative and adaptive to their business environments which means more competitive.

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