The Responsibility of Corporations and Governments

By Emily McKeon

The newest narrative painted by big-plastic corporations is that we should attempt to eliminate plastic straws from our lifestyles. Companies send influencers on social media cute little reusable straws, some still even being made out of plastic materials, with captions speaking about the amount of plastic we consume—and consumers buy these products “in order to make a difference”. There is now an entire market for “sustainable” straws—ones made with cute designs and colors, or metal ones for a more pleasing aesthetic. New companies have decided to profit off of this rising notion that cutting out plastic straws will save our oceans by marketing metal straws, a material that will still take at least 50 years to decompose once disposed of. According to Condor Ferries statistics, “The world produces 381 million tonnes in plastic waste yearly—this is set to double by 2034. 50% of this is single-use plastic and only 9% has ever been recycled.” This is a huge problem, considering plastic straws don’t make even a full 1% of plastic waste. The question, then, is why are we being persuaded to believe that this is going to save the planet?

“Corporate law today allows for the separation of the personality of a corporation from the personalities of its shareholders… and protects owners and directors from being personally liable for the company’s debts and other obligations.” (GreenPeace) Coca-Cola is the leading plastic polluter in the world. If a consumer were to actively decide to be environmentally conscious when making shopping choices, they may choose to stop buying soda cans, right? The problem with this assumption is that Coca-Cola does not limit their goods to just Coca-Cola soda. What the consumer doesn’t know is that Coca-Cola also owns sub-brands like Fanta, Sprite, vitaminwater, and smartwater. This large corporation has many more assets than meets the eye of the consumer.

A currently trending movie on Netflix, Seaspiracy, can further explain the hidden agendas of polluting companies. In this film, filmmaker Ali Tabrizi goes to great lengths to discover the leading causes of the 13 million tonnes of plastic that enters our oceans yearly. During the film, Tabrizi uncovers shocking discoveries of many corporations which claim to protect the environment are making deals with polluters behind closed doors. Examples of this include Dolphin Safe and the Marine Stewardship Council, who supply labels on products they claim to be “sustainably” caught fish. It’s difficult to even know which companies are bad because they do such a good job at covering their tracks. An example of this can be seen when Tabrizi interviews two women from his “favorite plastic organization”, Plastic Pollution Coalition. He visits them after discovering that fishing gear accounts for 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, yet PPC never speaks on this subject. The woman says that microplastics are the largest polluters of our oceans. Tabrizi informs her of the statistic involving the fishing gear and asks why it is not a message on the PPC website, and she tells him to speak with the founder of PPC, on the matter. The conversation takes a turn when she gets defensive of the message for individuals to “eat less fish”. Turns out, the Plastic Pollution Coalition is the same organization as the Earth Island Institute—the same corporation that owns the Dolphin Safe Tuna label, who work with the fishing industry to sell more seafood. This proves that large corporations like to divert the individual consumer’s attention away from the real problems at hand.

Can the individual consumer make a difference when it comes to the environment with shady corporations all over the world who are never held accountable by state officials? State institutions have a history of having entanglements in corporate interests due to economic interests. Large corporations’ greed involves the most cheaply produced materials for the most money they can accumulate. States turn a blind eye to this because these companies generate economic growth for host states. The public can never be too sure what occurs behind closed doors.

Individuals may not be able to punish large corporations with fines, but they are capable of no longer supporting them by giving them business. If the greed of corporations is money-driven, and if the consumer decides to place their money elsewhere, then maybe it could influence their choices in their environmental impact and

Works Cited:

  1. “100+ Plastic in the Ocean Statistics & Facts (2020-2021).” Condor Ferries, Condor Ferries, 2021, http://www.condorferries.co.uk/plastic-in-the-ocean-statistics. 

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