Despite the dismissive tone of the Wall Street Journal’s John D. Stoll in suggesting that shareholder interest in reducing plastic garbage is somehow disconnected from risk and return, the fact is that the ability of corporations to continue to externalize their costs is likely to be sharply reduced and consumer preferences are increasingly tied to environmental impact. We will say once again that all ESG-related shareholder initiatives are vitally tied to risk and return assessments, and that we are more confident of shareholders’ evaluation of those initiatives than of corporate insiders. That is, in fact, the very basis of capitalism. InsideClimate notes:
Several of the largest producers of the fossil fuel feedstocks used to make plastics are being pressured by investors to explain what the companies are doing to reduce plastic waste in the world’s oceans and waterways.Plastics represent a new direction for the activist shareholders, who for years have focused on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels in their effort hold corporations responsible for the environmental fallout of their industries.By turning attention to plastics, the investors hope to kick-start a conversation with the industry that will provide a realistic view of the size and scope of the plastics problem, exemplified by the millions of tons of garbage left behind to float in the oceans when plastics are not recycled.