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U.N. Plastics Treaty: Good for business and the planet


The U.N. Plastics Treaty aims to end plastic pollution and accelerate the transition to a circular economy. This is an unprecedented opportunity to not only solve the world’s plastic problem, but also create a better environment for business to thrive by lowering barriers to trade, reducing operational costs, simplifying reporting, and boosting economies of scale.

The U.N. Plastics Treaty will be implemented by governments and impact businesses across regions and industries. SAP supports the supply chain logistics and transactional systems responsible for the management of plastics and materials around the globe today; in fact, SAP customers represent 87% of global commerce.

For decades, SAP software has been instrumental in enabling our customers to manage material flows, including plastics. We understand first-hand the complexity that businesses face in managing the highly fragmented web of regulations currently in place to reduce plastic waste. This complexity also applies to the flow of information between organizations, impeding the alignment of upstream efforts (reduce, substitute, redesign) with downstream solutions (collect, reuse, recycle). Achieving systemic change will require collaboration and joint innovation, which depends on effective, well-functioning communication.

A common unified approach and level playing field

At INC-4, the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, together with its 200 members including SAP, is calling for global rules to ensure a common unified approach to the management of plastics and packaging, underpinned by harmonized regulations. This will make it easier to scale solutions, mobilize the right investments and enable stakeholders to work better together across the value chain.

The treaty must lay the foundations for harmonized regulations that allow transparency of materials and support an inclusive plastics ecosystem. A lack of standardization for regulations and common definitions for plastics and packaging is hindering a flow of information today. Global rules will help businesses and investors to allocate capital and resources effectively for reuse and redesign, enhance waste infrastructure, and support new innovations.

Four key elements for practical implementation

In order to harmonize regulations, simplify information flow and accelerate implementation of global rules, SAP are further advocating for the following pre-requisites to be in place:  

Establishment of common definitions for plastics and packing to ensure mutual understanding and interoperability. This applies to the categorization of various plastic polymers, how products are structured and denominated, and how they are packaged and sold.

Harmonization across the plastics lifecycle covering criteria for product design, Extended Producer Responsibility schemes and reporting on material fate. This will support businesses in designing for circularity and recyclability and ensure strategic decisions are guided by the capabilities of existing downstream infrastructure and highlight where new capital investments are needed.

Harmonized national disclosure schemes to ensure uniformity, comparability, and information transparency. This is essential for giving investors and regulators a base of information for policy steering and decision making.  This approach allows business to harness the full potential of AI driven innovation to accelerate solutions at scale.

Recognize the role of digital  tools for traceability. Improved data and the application of digital tracking will enable true progress.  We value the recognition by negotiators of the importance of establishing digital tracking and traceability.

We encourage negotiators to align on these priority areas, followed by detailed discussions on how they can effectively be implemented at scale. Technology and data will play a critical role in helping businesses to operationalize the treaty. We must not settle for a treaty that falls short of delivering its ambition to end plastic pollution.  


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