The movement to end plastic pollution and ban single-use plastic packaging has become one of the most visible globally.

Despite this, the banking sectors’ role in funding plastic has not been investigated – until now.

Between January 2015 and September 2019, banks provided loans and underwriting of more than USD 1.7 trillion.

These loans went to 40 major companies involved in the global plastics supply chain, equivalent to USD 790 million per day.

More than 60 per cent of all finance identified was provided by ten banks, and more than 80 per cent (USD 1.4 trillion) came from just 20 banks.

Top Twenty Lenders to 40 actors in the Plastic Packaging Value Chain (Jan 2015 – Sept 2020; million USD)
Bank of AmericaUnited States171,73710.31%
CitigroupUnited States145,8168.76%
JPMorgan ChaseUnited States143,7668.63%
BarclaysUnited Kingdom117,9237.08%
Goldman SachsUnited States97,0425.83%
HSBCUnited Kingdom96,2015.78%
Deutsche BankGermany77,3984.65%
Wells FargoUnited States74,1214.45%
BNP ParibasFrance55,8523.35%
Morgan StanleyUnited States54,2113.26%
Mizuho FinancialJapan50,6023.04%
Mitsubishi UFJ FinancialJapan43,5872.62%
Credit SuisseSwitzerland40,2182.42%
Société GénéraleFrance35,7752.15%
SMBC GroupJapan33,1891.99%
ING GroupNetherlands31,0841.87%
Toronto-Dominion BankCanada23,5741.42%
NatWestUnited Kingdom22,2071.33%
Royal Bank of CanadaCanada21,7601.31%

Meanwhile, more than 90 per cent of the total finance came from banks headquartered in just eight countries.

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The findings show even a small number of banks making their lending contingent on plastic pollution-reducing policies could have a major impact.

Equally, legislative measures such as lender liability could be highly impactful even when initially implemented in a small number of regions.

What next?

Despite public outcry over the serious consequences of plastic pollution, none of the 20 banks providing the bulk of funding have developed any due diligence systems, contingent loan criteria, or financing exclusions when it comes to the plastics industry.

In order to address global plastic pollution, banks and governments will need to play a much more active role to lay the groundwork for a circular economy and significantly reduce single-use plastic packaging.