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The Leaders and Laggards in the Quest to Reach a Circular Economy

As the world continues to grapple with its plastic waste crisis, BloombergNEF’s annual Circular Economy Ranking reveals the companies that are leading the charge to develop more sustainable packaging and those that are falling behind.

Based on their strategies and ambition to transition to a circular economy, Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are the top three brand owners, while Borealis, Braskem and Dow are at the front of the pack among plastic producers.

BNEF has once again assessed 40 companies in total, comprising 20 brand owners and 20 plastic producers. Some 35 of these firms now have net-zero emissions targets, with Oreo maker Mondelez, brewing giant AB InBev, and oil major ExxonMobil among those announcing new commitments since late 2021.

Both brand owners and plastic producers are split into three tiers: leaders, followers and laggards. Leading companies are making incremental progress towards their circular economy goals. At the same time, many firms are setting new targets, allowing them to leapfrog some of the original circular economy stalwarts.

Companies that moved up in the ranking include:

  • Proctor and Gamble: The consumer goods giant rose three places after increasing its packaging reduction target from 25% to 50% and improving its share of reusable and recyclable packaging from 55% to 73% in 2021.

  • Lotte Chemical: The South Korean company jumped four spots after announcing two new circular targets for 2030.

  • Dow: The chemical manufacturer moved up three places after announcing aggressive new recycled and renewable production targets and forming new partnerships on chemical recycling.

Companies that moved down in the ranking include:

  • Unilever: The consumer goods company slipped from seventh to 10th position, despite being a circular economy pioneer. Its targets only cover plastic packaging and are limited to specific products or regions. It could also stand to increase the ambition of its goal to use 25% recycled plastic in its packaging by 2025, given that it has already reached a 20% share.

  • LyondellBasell: Despite announcing a number of new partnerships, the chemical and plastics maker dropped four places. It performed well overall, with a target to produce 2 million metric tons of recycled and renewable polymers by 2030. However, its ambition fell short of peers who have set interim 2025 objectives as well as 2030 targets.

  • Alpek: The Mexican petrochemical firm slid three places in this year’s ranking. While it has already met its 2025 goal to increase PET bottle recycling capacity to 300,000 tonnes, the company has not set any new goals or targets.



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