World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

  • Date: 28 January 2021
  • Author: Erin Simon, World Wildlife Fund and Ellen Martin, The Circulate Initiative

Plastic crediting has recently emerged as a promising—but not yet proven—way companies can help fix a broken piece of the plastic value chain: waste management.

Conceptually, a plastic credit is a transferable unit that represents a specific quantity of plastic waste. Plastic crediting has developed partly in response to the challenges companies face in managing their post-consumer waste in complex waste management systems. The associated concept of plastic neutrality is a way for companies to claim to “balance” their plastic footprint through credits that pay for the removal of plastic in the environment equivalent to their plastic pollution footprint.

And, while we’re encouraged by the possibility of a low-effort way for many companies to take action on the issue of plastic pollution, we must ensure this action is meaningful.

In this nascent stage of crediting development—before the point of widescale adoption—the plastic crediting value chain must course correct to ensure that the development, implementation, and adoption of credits are making transformational impact.

Today, The Circulate Initiative (TCI) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released our separate perspectives on how to shape the path for plastic crediting going forward. Between TCI’s evaluation of best crediting practices and WWF’s parameters for a credible program, the consensus between our organizations is that plastic crediting must leave a positive impact on people and nature. To get there, all programs should mitigate risk, align on best practices and be leveraged only when they contribute to systems-change.

Mitigating risks

Plastic crediting programs have the potential to drive important investment to our waste management systems. However, if not designed and implemented well, plastic crediting programs could do more harm than good, from greenwashing to derailing legitimate efforts on plastic waste reduction.

Not unlike the carbon counterpart for climate, plastic crediting activities can lead to misleading claims like “plastic neutral” and other potentially misleading language around offsetting. This language is especially dangerous when crediting is used in place of a more impactful plastic mitigation strategy. Companies should not be able to cheaply “buy” their way out of responsibility to the plastic they make by purchasing credits, without addressing change needed in their products and supply chains. Any crediting scheme should provide strict rules around what claims can and cannot be made with purchased credits and provide guardrails around communicating claims in a transparent, effective way.

Another risk is the threat to progress on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) implementation. WWF has identified EPR as a necessary and effective intervention for addressing plastic waste. Specifically, there is concern that the widescale adoption of crediting activities will either not coordinate with local EPR implementation, or even be seen as an adequate alternative to EPR. As governments adopt EPR policies, it remains to be seen whether voluntary credit schemes will support or threaten their progress. Participants should be aware of the risk that bespoke programs may interfere with effective interventions.

For a comprehensive list of the risks associated with plastic crediting, see WWF’s Position on Plastic Crediting and Plastic Neutrality.

Aligning on best practices

Currently there are 32 claims and crediting programs in the marketplace, but no formal, agreed-upon standard or methodology framework to determine credibility or bring transparency to the process. This gap creates a landscape mired with inconsistencies and vulnerable to risks, which can ultimately lead to unintended consequences for the environment, communities, and the shift towards circular systems.

In the absence of standards, TCI identified 11 best practices that should guide the development, approach to impact, implementation and adoption of certification and credit programs. Across the existing 32 standards, no single program has adopted all 11.

While we understand that best practices take time to develop well and aren’t readily available the moment new programs come to market, it is important that crediting organizations embed and embrace best practices as they evolve and strive for continuous improvement. Best practices are indispensable to reinforcing environmental, social, and legitimacy safeguards that must be embedded within any plastic crediting program.

But crediting systems must also be designed to contribute towards systems-change: amendable for continuous improvement, driving progress towards more circular systems, and designed with comprehensive EPR in mind. See WWF’s Principles for Credible Plastic Claims here..

Pursuing as additional action, not a singular strategy

Best practices and risk mitigation can ensure crediting programs create meaningful impact on waste management and pollution, but they will only contribute as a meaningful tactic on plastic waste if taken as a supplemental action to a holistic corporate plastic strategy. Companies must first prioritize the reduction of their own plastic waste footprint – eliminating unnecessary plastic, moving to responsible sourcing of the remaining plastic, and working to increase the reuse, recycling, and composting of their products.

Both TCI and WWF are invested in embracing innovation on plastic waste as a force for solving complex problems in a complex environmental crisis. But to embrace innovation we must also lay the groundwork for its success – and for plastic crediting, that means pushing for plastic crediting systems which follow best practices in governance, social, and environmental issues, to ensure plastic crediting drives impactful and transformational change and lives up to its potential to deliver much-needed investment to waste management.

  • Date: 27 January 2021
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director of Business Case Development, WWF

The Possibility Is Closer than You Might Think

Many large companies have made environmental commitments to reduce embedded greenhouse gas emissions in the products they make or sell, yet are struggling to reach them. Scope 3 emissions pose a particular set of challenges—all the indirect emissions that occur both up and downstream in a company’s value chain, including from primary production, such as those emitted while producing milk on dairy farms. Within the food industry, supply chains are complex, with many ingredients going into diverse product portfolios. The dairy industry’s Net Zero Initiative¹ (NZI) has established the goal of reaching net zero GHG emissions by 2050 and has set a bold agenda to achieve this goal. Recent analysis conducted by The Markets Institute @ World Wildlife Fund—based on assumptions and data shared by stakeholders in the dairy industry—demonstrates that achieving net zero for large farms is possible with the right practices, incentives, and policies within five years. If businesses also step up to make investments and collaborate with dairy farmers in their supply chain, the potential to reach these goals can become even more tangible.

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  • Date: 25 January 2021
  • Author: Leigh Prezkop, Food Loss and Waste Specialist, WWF

Nearly 10 million tons of food grown on farms never leaves the farmgate. This is startling considering as many as one in six Americans faces food insecurity and over 50 percent of our land base is used for agriculture. With the technology advancements we have seen in agriculture over the decades, from mechanical harvesting equipment to precision techniques, it seems possible that we could also improve forecasting and distribution to more fully use the surplus that we grow.

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  • Date: 12 January 2021
  • Author: Jason Clay, Executive Director, WWF Markets Institute

Every year the Markets Institute identifies and publishes a list of global issues, trends, and tools we think will most affect food and soft commodities in the coming year. We have just released the list for 2021. These emerging developments may not yet be apparent. Thus, this list is intended to create awareness and shift our thinking and actions.

This year the process has been complicated by COVID-19 which could have dominated the list (we predicted the increased likelihood of zoonotic diseases in our 2017 list). The pandemic has disrupted lives, food systems, and much more, and its long-term impacts remain to be seen. We have tried to look beyond the pandemic to lasting changes and influences on our global food system. We are also interested in the extent to which the pandemic experience is a trial run for our responses to climate change.

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  • Date: 28 December 2020
  • Author: Anthony Tusino, Program Officer, Policy & Government Affairs

Over the past year, it is estimated that 10 million metric tons of plastic waste have entered the world’s oceans. Our traditional linear economy—where we use, consume and throw away plastics at an alarming rate—has created a world where plastic is found in almost every habitat; from neighborhoods to forests to waterways, and even the deepest point in the ocean. The time to end plastic pollution is now. We have made encouraging progress over the past year, with more than 750,000 activists calling on governments around the world to solve the plastic crisis. WWF is proud to share the progress we have made in 2020 and look forward to a future free of plastic waste.

Advancing National Policy

In 2020, the call to curb plastic pollution was heard on Capitol Hill. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act builds on the success of existing legislation to better understand the impact of plastic on our environment, to establish U.S. leadership in combating waste leakage and development of materials recycling, and to combat marine debris by investing in new technology. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act will set the stage for new national action to combat marine debris and advance effective waste management.

The introduction of the Break Free From Plastic Act has advanced national conversations around our domestic reliance on virgin plastic. We cannot fix our linear economy by focusing only on the management of plastic waste. We must reevaluate the ways in which we use and rely on plastic. Extended Producer Responsibility mechanisms, like those in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, have the potential to reduce consumers’ reliance on virgin materials while simultaneously allowing for new investment in our recycling systems and ensuring that plastic producers are responsible for the waste they create. WWF supports a domestic Extended Producer Responsibility system where consumers, corporations and governments can work toward a truly circular economy. In 2021, we are looking forward to advancing this national movement.

Understanding Impact

Reflecting on the past year, WWF has made incredible progress in understanding the impact of plastic on our natural world and how we can work with partners in the private sector to advance our vision for a circular economy. In June, we released Transparent 2020, the first report of our ReSource: Plastic Footprint Tracker pilot effort. We tracked the footprint of five major companies and found they accounted for 4.2 million metric tons of plastic waste, 70% of which is either landfilled or mismanaged. By understanding the footprint of large corporations, we can better understand and provide recommendations for what interventions need to be taken to reduce those footprints, including suggestions for redesign of packaging to eliminate unnecessary plastic, or by shifting to sustainable inputs.

Recognizing the impact that our commercial fishing practices have on the health of our oceans, we released the comprehensive report “Stop Ghost Gear: The most deadly form of plastic debris” in October. The report spotlights the problem of abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear (ghost gear), which makes up 10% of the ocean’s plastic waste and impacts 66% of marine mammals, 50% of seabirds, and every species of sea turtle. We laid out a series of actions that governments, fishing gear producers and designers, fishers, and the general public can take to tackle it.

Building Coalitions

We have also worked to transform international conversations around plastic waste and waste management practices. A United Nations Treaty on plastic pollution has been endorsed by almost 2 million global activists and more than two-thirds of UN member states. With the release of “The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution” in October, we found that plastic pollution causes $13 billion in damage to marine ecosystems every year. Together, 31 large corporations have supported the call for an international treaty.

We also launched the U.S. Plastics Pact alongside our partners at The Recycling Partnership and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The Pact focuses on four main goals to remove problematic packaging from our system and work toward an economy that prioritizes the use of recycled content. With more than 80 members spanning industry groups, corporations, state and municipal agencies, national environmental organizations and members of academia, the Pact will release a roadmap to circularity in early 2021, with national footprint tracking and policy recommendations to follow.

In 2020, we have made great progress in understanding the impact that plastic waste has on our communities and our natural world, even amid a pandemic. We have also built on enormous ambition across our members, our private sector partners and national and international policymakers. 2020 was a momentous year for combating plastic waste and 2021 will build on this success to end plastic pollution.

  • Date: 17 December 2020
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director of Business Case Development, WWF

Due to supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID-19, many brands are reducing the diversity of product offerings via stock keeping units, or SKUs. General Mills’ corporate communications manager explained to CNN, "If you think about our Progresso Soup portfolio, we have nearly 90 [varieties], and within those we likely have several varieties of Chicken Noodle. Right now, our consumers and our retailers likely don't need the flavor variations so we're minimizing the variety we are making.” In 2020, consumers anxiously filling their pantries led to stockouts, and it became challenging for brands to forecast available supply of complex product lines. While this reduction in diverse product offerings may mean fewer choices for consumers in the store or online, it can actually be a good thing. The more SKUs a company offers, the harder it is to respond to disruptions. In addition to preventing issues with day-to-day business operations, streamlining SKUs can enable companies to reorient their strategies to meet environmental goals, as well as save them money.

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  • Date: 16 December 2020
  • Author: Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement

As we marked the 5-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement this past weekend, I am filled with hope -- much needed in this particularly challenging year.

The past few weeks have been an inflection point -- considering the United States election of a new administration and the landmark rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. As we look toward 2021, we now can envision exciting progress as we regain momentum on climate action in the U.S. President-elect Biden has long been a champion of addressing climate change and the loss of nature. We anticipate the United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement in 2021 -- a critical first step to restore the health of our planet and a collaborative relationship with our global allies.

Widespread support for the bold climate action we need has grown more energetic and powerful. Youth activism has elevated climate justice across the world. From the farmlands in Nigeria to major U.S. cities, youth are demanding climate change action. Through social media, these young activists are coordinating their voices and efforts, and increasing pressure on our leaders toward positive change in our world.

The youth are not alone. When the Trump Administration announced its intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement back in 2017, business, local and state government, academic and other leaders in the United States came together to say “We Are Still In.” Over the past four years, nearly 4,000 local leaders across all 50 states, representing over half of the U.S. population, nearly two-thirds of its economy and more than half of the country’s emissions, have come together behind this shared commitment to uphold the Paris Agreement and lead by example.

And this past December 10th, We Are Still In stepped up once again to recommit to bold climate action, with the message that U.S. businesses, communities and many more are ready for a national mobilization on climate and recovery (

Efforts like these to drive decarbonization through cross-sector collaboration now exist around the world. They have developed into a global network of national coalitions, the Alliances for Climate Action. They feature leaders, many from the corporate sector, setting a strong example, building support for climate action, and engaging on national policies to accelerate decarbonization.

Every day, more companies, large and small, are proudly announcing their voluntary commitment to climate action. Indeed, this is good news. But, inconsistent corporate claims about climate action and confusion around terms such as net zero and climate neutral only add to the noise -- and raise doubts among stakeholders as to the credibility of individual companies’ climate strategies. As such, even those with the best intentions face considerable hurdles when setting climate goals, crafting climate strategies and communicating them to the public.

Companies need to focus on actions that underpin a truly effective corporate strategy for mitigating the effects of climate change and protecting nature. WWF’s new report, Beyond Science-Based Targets: A Blueprint for Corporate Action on Climate and Nature, explains how this can be accomplished. It is a tool configured for companies to craft an action plan for maximizing their climate impact. It can be used both by companies looking to create their first comprehensive climate strategy and by those hoping to upgrade their strategies to stay atop the leaderboard.

The legacy of climate inaction at the U.S. federal level has left us with a huge challenge. While national governments have an essential role to play, we need every sector of society to step up and do more to reduce emissions. We also need collaborative action across sectors to call on national governments to set the ambition and supportive policies to where they need to be, aligned with science.

2021 is primed to be a momentous year for global climate action, one filled with opportunity to decouple our recovery from GHG emissions and build back better. But to seize the opportunity, we need strong leadership from the corporate sector. We’re counting on you. Together, and strategically, we can realize significant progress for our planet.

  • Date: 16 December 2020
  • Author: Dan Riley, Director, International Corporate Climate Partnerships

As I reflect on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement and the end of 2020, I believe we have reason to be optimistic about the fight against climate change. Several climate-critical countries, including China, Japan, South Africa, and South Korea, recently stepped forward with ambitious carbon neutrality targets--joining the dozens who have already made such commitments. Here in the U.S, the incoming Biden-Harris Administration has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement on “Day One,” and a coalition of thousands of communities, businesses and institutions have declared that “America is All In,” while calling for a net-zero trajectory for the United States.

We have more reason to be optimistic when we look to the contributions being made by businesses. Over 1000 companies globally have committed to set Science Based Targets, with nearly 500 of those already approved. Over 280 companies have signed on to RE100, committing to use 100% renewable electricity, and in the U.S., over 200 companies have joined the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance. The commitments of these leading companies, and many more across the U.S., reflect the growing consensus by business that they must cut greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and their supply chains if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

The need for a Global Gateway

Despite this growing corporate ambition, companies face real barriers to translate their ambitious targets into on-the-ground actions. One particularly difficult challenge is working with supply chain partners in international markets. In many of these markets the critical role business must play in cutting emissions is not yet locked in. And, we know suppliers face tremendous capacity, market, and policy challenges even if they want to succeed.

That’s why WWF has been working to make it easier for companies and their suppliers to do more quickly. We know from working in many countries, including India, Mexico, South Korea, and Viet Nam, that success requires localized, integrated, and streamlined support platforms. In each case, WWF leverages deep local roots and strong technical expertise to identify the most effective local partners and to navigate the unique market and cultural conditions towards long-lasting solutions.

Climate Business Hub China

This month, WWF China launched one more program, the Climate Business Hub China (CBH China). CBH China will focus initially on three offerings where deep-rooted, localized support can unlock climate action for companies and their local suppliers: target-setting, renewable energy procurement, and low-carbon innovation. This work is convened and led by local experts at WWF China and includes materials, presentations and events in Chinese.

Target Setting: To make it as easy and efficient as possible for local teams and suppliers in China to engage and learn at scale, CBH China has developed a Science Based Target Training Camp to provide answers and share case studies that allow businesses to set emissions reduction targets that are both real and achievable. Initially, the training will be held two or three times a year.

Additionally, through engagement with Chinese companies, we have found that they are less inclined to set a target or make public pledges without a very clear pathway for reaching the target. Therefore, CBH China is designed to provide strong implementation support along the SBTI training, with a particular focus on renewable electricity procurement.

Renewable Electricity Procurement: CBH China has developed a suite of tools and resources for companies at different levels of maturity:

• The Renewable Energy Buyers Statement is designed to help companies communicate their commitment and demand for renewable energy to policymakers and utilities.

• The Buyers’ Evaluation Tool will guide new companies through an eight-step renewable energy procurement journey and provides targeted recommendations and resources within each step to accelerate their renewable energy procurement journey.

• The Buyers' Curriculum provides modular renewable energy procurement training for companies at different stages of their procurement journey.

• The Corporate Renewable Energy Pilot Program provides hands-on support for motivated companies to work closely with provincial policymakers, utilities and renewable energy developers to explore new and better options for renewable electricity procurement.

Low Carbon Innovation: Companies need new and innovative solutions to reduce their emissions cost-effectively. Meanwhile, small and medium enterprises who are one of the main drivers for low-carbon innovation face significant financing and marketing challenges. CBH China’s Climate Solver program awards small and medium enterprises which develop innovative low-carbon solutions annually and connects these innovators to the companies and investors who can accelerate their commercialization and growth.

The Climate Business Hub China—one more reason to be optimistic for 2021!

For more information about Climate Business Hub China, please contact Yue Wu or Daniel Riley.

  • Date: 09 December 2020
  • Author: Annie Petsonk, Environmental Defense Fund; Brad Schallert, WWF; and John Holler, WWF

If you fly, you may know that flying is likely the largest part of your personal carbon footprint. What you may not know is that if aviation were its own country, it would be a top-ten carbon polluter. Plus, scientists now know that aircraft burning fuel in the upper atmosphere more than doubles the global warming impact of the carbon dioxide emissions alone– think of the heat-trapping contrails streaking across the sky that jets form high up in the atmosphere.

Aviation’s social license to operate depends on its ability to get on a flight path to net zero climate impact by 2050.

That’s a tall order, for two reasons.

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  • Date: 17 November 2020
  • Author: David Kuhn and Nicole Tanner, WWF

Climate change is amplifying and creating new risks for companies. As storms, droughts, and heat waves become more frequent and severe, natural systems that provide the essential inputs to sustain production and ensure business continuity face ever-increasing threats. Companies must now ensure they are not only sustainable, but also "resilient"—that is, able to withstand, recover from, and adapt to changes in weather and climate.

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