MARINE PLASTIC POLLUTION
Plastic pollution is a key environmental issue on investors’ ESG agenda. As a practical contribution to address concerns, the Investor Forum brought together nine institutional investors to co-sponsor a new BSI technical standard which aims to catalyse the change in corporate behaviour needed to eliminate plastic pellet leakage into the environment.
In 2018, boutique asset manager McInroy & Wood identified the lack of pellet management standards as a key challenge when trying to raise the issue with companies. They asked for the Investor Forum’s assistance in coordinating an engagement with the standard setting agencies, and 18 investors signed a letter calling for new standards to codify best practice.
The British Standards Institution agreed that a standard was required, and suggested that a “Publicly Available Specification” (PAS) be sponsored to enable a fast-track delivery.
For the first time, investors formed an innovative multi-stakeholder co-sponsor group to deliver the new standard. In a tangible demonstration of their commitment to stewardship, nine institutional investors, co-ordinated by the Investor Forum, agreed to co-sponsor the standard and provide financial backing to advance the development, The standard was developed by the BSI and Marine Scotland, acting on behalf of the Scottish Government’s Plastic Pellet Loss Steering Group. The UK’s trade association for plastics companies, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) was also heavily involved.
The investor group funded conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI) to act as the steering group expert on their behalf. FFI is one of the core NGO partners of the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance formed to address Sustainable Development Goal 14 – “Life below water”
The investor co-sponsor group comprised:
Allianz Global Investors, Brewin Dolphin, Environment Agency Pension Fund, Generation Investment Management, LGPS Central, McInroy & Wood, Man Group, Ownership Capital, and Troy Asset Management.
A New Plastic Pellet Standard
The new standard – PAS 510: 2021  – launched in July 2021, means that, for the first time, companies can take a fully auditable and verifiable risk-based approach to eliminating pellet loss and demonstrate compliance with best practice. The PAS will be freely available and internationally applicable, which makes it an attractive tool for procurement teams.
The PAS 510:2021 design process was informed by input from a range of stakeholders, from co-sponsorship to co-design, lending unique credibility to the new specification.
The investors co-sponsoring the PAS have publicly committed to engage with portfolio companies to encourage them to adopt the practices codified in PAS 510 and partner only with suppliers who have made similar commitments. As stakeholders in businesses that are directly or indirectly responsible for microplastics pollution, investors hope the new standard will help prevent avoidable direct sources of microplastic pollution from entering the marine environment.
For the press release announcing the publication of PAS510, click here.
 PAS 510:2021 Plastic pellets, flakes and powders – Handling and management throughout the supply chain to prevent their leakage to the environment – Specification
What are plastic pellets?
Plastic pellets – otherwise known as nurdles – are bits of plastic that are the building blocks of the plastic industry. Plastic pellets, powder and flakes can escape at various points in the cycle of production, manufacturing, storage, transportation and recycling. Escaped pellets are then washed into natural waterways, negatively impacting the ecosystem and threatening wildlife.
Who is BSI?
The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the national standards body of the UK, operating independently under Royal Charter. BSI is a member of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Why write a new standard?
Standards are strategic tools, based on definitions, measurements, metrics for testing and other specified parameters agreed by consensus. They are drawn up by a group of experts following a certified process and define best practice in many different areas.
A supply chain approach for pellet management will increase the accountability of, and confidence in, all companies using or buying plastic products that pellets are handled responsibly at all stages of production. Companies are used to implementing technical standards. Compliance with a standard would allow companies to demonstrate that their entire supply chain has put measures in place to prevent plastic-loss, and give investors a means to evaluate and hold companies to account for their activities.
What is the targeted outcome?
Creation of a standard is a practical an impactful way to change behaviour throughout the supply chain. The Sponsor Group favours such an approach as the solution does not require innovation or a complex, systemwide co-ordinated response, and can deliver demonstrable outcomes within a finite time scale (12-18 months).
The PAS could be a starting point to enable EU-wide legislation, and adoption by ISO would have a high global impact.
PAS 510: 2021 can be downloaded from the BSI website here.
Detail on PAS 510 and supporting material for companies can be found here.
A Multi-Stakeholder Approach
Investor Forum Investor Group
(Investor Forum and 9 Investors)
(British Plastics Federation)
BSI PAS PROCESS
Governed by BSI Standardisation Procedures
NEW PAS DELIVERY
Investor Sponsor Liaison
(Fauna & Flora International)
BSI Project Manager
(Pellet producers / recyclers / transporters / plastic using brands / retailers / technical advisers etc.)
(Academia / formal standards committees / independent experts / consumer groups)