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As long as the sustainability agenda is defined by big multinationals, then there is no place for any action that impacts their own interest, even slightly. So, as an example, reuse will always be less preferred than recycling, just because it is less profitable than selling single use cans! Here is another example, from the health sector, that proves the efforts made by multinationals to control the public health agenda by funding NGOs on one hand and stop public health bills with the other hand .

Two major US soda giants, have given millions of dollars to health organisations while quietly fighting anti-obesity measures such as taxes on soft drinks, a new study shows. The soda giants, from 2011 to 2015, sponsored 96 national health organisations battling public health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, said the research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

During the same period, the two soda companies lobbied against 29 public health bills intended to reduce soda consumption or improve nutrition.”These companies lobbied against public health intervention in 97 per cent of cases, calling into question a sincere commitment to improving the public’s health,” said the study’s authors Daniel Aaron and Michael Siegel of Boston University.

According the New York Times, the authors scoured public records including news releases, newspaper databases, lobbying reports, the medical literature and information released by the beverage giants themselves. While some of the incidents cited in the study already have been reported by news organizations, the medical journal report is the first to take a comprehensive look at the industry’s strategy of donating to health organizations while at the same time lobbying against public health measures. The study tracked industry donations and lobbying spending from 2011 through 2015, at a time when many cities were mulling soda taxes or other regulations to combat obesity.

I am almost sure that the case is similar with the efforts to apply Extended Producer Responsibility laws and set national legal targets for packaging recycling, at least in Latin America, where I am aware of the situation in many countries. The big multinationals prefer to fund, through several umbrella organisations, recycling initiatives by informal recyclers rather than being obliged to recycling targets by concrete legislation and EPR systems. The multinational giants pursue “sustainability” initiatives only to the extent it is directly profitable, to avoid reputational loss, or for long-term strategic advantage in the take-make-waste economy.

I suggest my readers to read the article “Sustainababble from Coca-Cola?“, written by Bill Sheehan, in order to get more details about the real nature of the problem. In brief, he explains, corporate control of the “sustainability agenda” is done within the framework of a corporate agenda predicated on endless growth. Reducing waste, toxics and greenhouse gas emissions and increasing supply chain transparency can, in fact, increase a company’s competitive position. But these technological improvements in resource efficiency are being pursued primarily, if not only, to help companies control more market share and sell more stuff.

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