Optimism Surrounding the UN Plastics Treaty

Reflections on the UN Plastic Pollution Treaty Negotiations

Hein Schumacher, CEO of Unilever, shares insights following the fourth round of negotiations for a UN treaty to address plastic pollution. His attendance at the INC4 in Ottawa provided a critical platform for advocating the necessity of globally binding regulations, especially concerning upstream interventions, to combat the plastic crisis effectively.

Representing the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, Schumacher emphasized the imperative for a legally binding agreement, citing the insufficiency of voluntary measures. With over 200 organizations backing the coalition, there’s unprecedented consensus across the plastic value chain on the urgency of this treaty.

Schumacher stressed the importance of governmental support for policies that create a level playing field for businesses. Harmonizing regulations globally would simplify supply chains, enhance scalability of solutions, and foster innovation.

Looking back at the progress made in Ottawa, Schumacher acknowledges the growing momentum and alignment within the coalition. The streamlined treaty text, encompassing measures across the plastic lifecycle, reflects promising advancements. Priority areas like restrictions, product design, and extended producer responsibility are being integrated, aiming to accelerate ongoing industry efforts.

However, challenges persist, particularly regarding reduction strategies and scaling reuse models. While there’s growing momentum for reduction policies, clarity on implementation pathways remains elusive.

Schumacher underscores the necessity for upstream measures like phasing out problematic plastics and harmonizing design standards. These discussions, though challenging, are pivotal for providing businesses with certainty to scale sustainable solutions.

Despite encouraging signs, Schumacher warns against overemphasis on national measures, advocating instead for globally coordinated rules to avoid fragmentation.

As negotiations proceed towards the fifth round, Schumacher reaffirms Unilever’s commitment to sustainability and urges collective action to seize this unprecedented opportunity to reshape humanity’s relationship with plastic. As part of the Business Coalition, Unilever stands ready to support governments and stakeholders in securing an ambitious treaty.

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