In recent years, private companies have begun to take more responsibility for social and environmental issues outside the realm of pure business. To companies in many industries, voluntary agreements are considered preferable to government regulation. In the case of the problems posed by plastics wastes, which extend beyond borders, voluntary agreements are the best, and possibly the only way forward.

That’s why those who are concerned about the environmental impacts of the plastics industry should be excited about the “New Plastics Economy Global Commitment”. This initiative, which is being led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Program, aims to help bring the plastics and related industries on a path towards achieving a “circular economy”. According to Jabil Packaging Solutions, one of the 200 signatories of the initiative, the initiative involves “eliminating the material we don’t need; innovating so the plastic we do need is designed to be safely reused, recycled or composted; and circulating plastic we use to keep it in the economy and out of the environment”.

The initiative has been joined by 400 entities. These include over two hundred local governments and nonprofits as well as nearly 200 private packaging producers – representing about 20% of the global packaging market. Launched in 2017, it has been signed by such major producers as PepsiCo, Target, and Nestle.

It’s one thing to join an initiative, but will companies keep to their commitments? Most companies will realize that the circular economy is the future, and that it is in their interests and those of their customers to adapt. However, even if that’s not enough, each signatory will be required to submit their progress to the initiative, where it will be published in an annual report called the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment Report.

According to a survey conducted by Jabil Packaging Solutions, 53% of packaging companies surveyed had set specific future sustainability goals, but only 36% of those companies feel certain they can meet their goals. The Global Commitment should provide a framework to companies hoping to become more sustainable, and it will remain open to new signatories.

To learn more about the New Plastics Economy, check out the website set up the MacArthur Foundation.