NGOs and businesses call for UN treaty on plastic pollution


In a joint report, The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution, WWF, the Foundation and Boston Consulting Group, set out the opportunity for a new global UN treaty on plastic pollution.

To accelerate progress towards a circular economy for plastic,there is an urgent need to amplify current efforts through coordinated and ambitious approaches. such as the Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and Plastics Pact network.

A common structure would set a clear direction and conditions, giving governments and businesses the impetus to move forward more decisively.

A global agreement setting out global goals and binding targets, together with national action plans and consistent measurement, is needed to:

  • harmonise policy efforts
  • enhance investment planning
  • stimulate innovation
  • coordinate infrastructure development

While voluntary initiatives can deliver change among market leaders, an international binding approach is needed to deliver the necessary industry scale change.

Based on the report, major businesses issued a call today for a UN treaty on plastic pollution to address the fragmented landscape of regulation and complement existing voluntary measures.

Alongside almost 2 million people also calling for a treaty, more than two-thirds of the UN member states from across the world, have officially declared that they are open to considering the option of a new global agreement, including African, Baltic, Caribbean, Nordic and Pacific states, as well as the European Union.

A resolution to start negotiations on such a treaty is expected to be tabled at the upcoming 5th Session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA5) in February 2021. This comes after the Assembly recognised plastic pollution as a global problem. Previously, a 2017 UNEA mandated examination concluded that the existing international legal framework governing plastic pollution is fragmented and ineffective. Both the report and business manifesto stress the urgent need to develop and adopt a new global treaty on plastic pollution as soon as possible.

WWF, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and BCG are urging more companies to join the call at

“We have seen important steps taken by businesses and governments in addressing plastic pollution over recent years. More than 500 organisations have signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, setting clear targets to achieve a circular economy for plastic in which it never becomes waste or pollution. But voluntary initiatives alone are not enough to solve plastic pollution and we believe governments and policymakers have a vital role to play. A binding global agreement that builds on the vision of a circular economy for plastic can ensure a unified international response to plastic pollution that matches the scale of the problem.” - Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder & Chair of Trustees Ellen MacArthur Foundation

“Over the last few years we have seen growing public demand for action on plastic pollution, with some governments and industries starting to implement voluntary measures on this issue, but this needs better coordination, and the international impetus and recognition that a global treaty would generate. While companies have a clear responsibility to address plastic pollution within their own supply chains wider systemic change is vital. The plastic pollution crisis was created in a single lifetime and can be ended in a single decade. But only if we act now, together.” - Cristianne Close, Head of the Markets Practice of WWF International

“For businesses, a global agreement could alleviate operational complexity, simplify reporting, and critically unlock investment across the plastic value chain.” - Jesper Nielsen, Leader of Social Impact & Sustainability Practice in Western Europe, Africa & South America, Boston Consulting Group