Mismanaged waste causes hundreds of thousands of the world’s poorest people to die each year, according to a recent article in The Guardian. Many of these deaths are easily preventable, particularly those that stem from the dangers of discarded plastic.
“While mismanaged waste has been a problem for decades, the growth of plastic pollution, which does not break down in the environment, is adding a fresh set of problems to an already dire situation,” writes Fiona Harvey. “Plastic waste is blocking waterways and causing flooding, which in turn spreads waterborne diseases. When people burn the waste to get rid of it, it releases harmful toxins and causes air pollution. Every second, a double-decker busload of plastic waste is burned or dumped in developing countries.”
Further intensifying the problem, many of these people must make their livings by collecting the waste. Some even live on garbage dumps, scavenging for what they can. These individuals are exposed to pollution, risk serious physical injury, and too often face deadly landslides and explosions from gas buildup.
Additionally, as more marine animals, cattle and goats ingest plastic, this significantly impairs fishing and agriculture, especially in poorer countries. And when large amounts of plastic waste wash up on shorelines and coral reefs, tourism suffers — something on which many of these nations rely.
Sir David Attenborough, vice-president of the conservation charity Fauna & Flora International, is quoted in the article: “We need international action to support the communities and governments most acutely affected by this crisis. …[And] we need leadership from those who are responsible for introducing plastic to countries where it cannot be adequately managed.”
The kind of leadership Attenborough describes is vital for today’s global business leaders, particularly those of us in supply chain. To that end, ASCM is committed to supporting and recognizing organizations that exhibit pioneering corporate social responsibility (CSR), proven business integrity and an unwavering focus on sustainability.
One way we are doing this is through the ASCM Award of Excellence — Making an Impact. Entrants to this brand-new award category must demonstrate ethical labor practices, reduced environmental effects and strong social policies. Our judges will be looking for responsible operations, clear reporting, honesty, transparency, and the systematic integration of CSR initiatives throughout the entire supply chain.
There is so much promise in the power of supply chains to address pressing global challenges, such as the plastic crisis. If your company is striving to achieve brighter futures for individuals, companies and communities, I encourage you to enter the 2019 ASCM Awards of Excellence. The deadline is May 31, and each winner’s story will be shared at ASCM 2019 and in the pages of SCM Now magazine, so we may all continue learning from each other and working together to create a better world through supply chain.