Environmental advocacy group As You Sow (Oakland, CA) announced that it has withdrawn its shareholder proposals with Chevron and Phillips 66 since Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. (The Woodlands, TX), which is jointly owned by the two companies, has agreed to start reporting spills of pre-production plastic pellets. As You Sow reached a similar agreement with ExxonMobil last month. These pellets, also called nurdles, are believed to be a significant source of ocean plastic pollution, according to As You Sow.
As You Sow routinely files shareholder proposals with large corporations to, in its words, foster transparency. In the case of Chevron Phillips and other plastics producers, visibility “is essential to enable policy makers and other stakeholders to assess the scope of this growing problem [of plastic pellet spills],” said Senior Vice President Conrad MacKerron.
When As You Sow filed the shareholder proposal with Chevron and Phillips 66 calling for pellet spill reporting, the two companies petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow them to omit the proposal. The SEC did not rule in their favor and, consequently, Chevron Phillips will share the requested data with As You Sow. Chevron Phillips agreed to report data it currently submits to state regulatory agencies regarding:
- The amount of pellets lost in the environment due to accidental releases from its plants;
- the amount of material recovered within its resin-handling facilities that is recycled;
- substantive information on its best management practices, plastic pellet production capacity and information on how it engages its supply chain to share best practices and help reduce and eliminate pellet losses elsewhere.
It also said it will employ third-party auditing to verify its reporting.
As Clare Goldsberry noted in a recent article about As You Sow’s advocacy, the plastics industry has a long-time program designed to deal with pellet spills and related issues. Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) was started 28 years ago by the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) in cooperation with the American Chemistry Council to implement best practices to control pellet spills at resin manufacturing plants as well as plastics processing facilities. However, “Operation Clean Sweep provides no transparency on the scope and nature of spills or efforts made to clean up. Given what we know about the alarming rates of plastic leakage into oceans, companies can no longer hide behind vague pledges of best practices,” said MacKerron. “They need to provide prompt and detailed disclosure about specific actions taken to prevent spills, and when spills occur, information on spill size and actions taken to clean up.”
On April 3, Chevron Phillips Chemical announced that it was becoming a member of Operation Clean Sweep Blue. Also administered by PLASTICS and the American Chemistry Council, OCS Blue is an “even more rigorous commitment to pellet loss reduction efforts than Operation Clean Sweep, which the company has been a member of since its inception in 2000,” said Chevron Phillips Chemical in a press release.