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A Year of Advancing Our Plastic Waste Reduction Goals

In the first year of our Plastic Waste Resolution, we’ve addressed this global problem through new investment solutions, critical partnerships to advance scientific and financing innovation and, of course, reductions in single-use plastic from our operations worldwide.

We pledged to facilitate the prevention, reduction and removal of 50 million metric tons of plastic waste from rivers, oceans, landscapes and landfills by 2030.

A year ago, Morgan Stanley became the first financial institution to announce its own commitment to tackle the growing global challenge of plastic waste. Through the Morgan Stanley Plastic Waste Resolution, we pledged to facilitate the prevention, reduction and removal of 50 million metric tons of plastic waste from rivers, oceans, landscapes and landfills by 2030. For more than a decade, we've been integrating sustainability into all of our businesses, spearheaded by our Global Sustainable Finance group, created in 2009. Building on that legacy, we're determined to mobilize the collective powers of industry, government, consumers and finance to create and scale economically effective approaches to reduce the harmful impacts of plastic waste.

To be sure, plastic plays an essential role in our lives, from cars and phones to the medical tools and protective gear vital to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we must also recognize the toll that an additional 300 million metric tons of plastic waste1 every year has on the planet.

In our efforts to combat plastic waste in the past year, we’ve collaborated with clients and partners, as well as financial leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs to encourage capacity building and address the issue of plastic waste at a systemic level.

Investing in Plastic Waste Solutions

Morgan Stanley’s position at the nexus of the capital markets has allowed the firm to create financial instruments and investment strategies that help clients to effect plastic waste reduction.

In October 2019, Morgan Stanley served as the sole green structuring advisor and a lead underwriter for PepsiCo’s inaugural $1 billion green bond. Funds raised from the offering support sustainable initiatives across PepsiCo, which includes a commitment to reduce 35% of virgin plastic content across their beverage portfolio by 2025. We also underwrote the World Bank’s first blue bond, which directed proceeds toward marine projects that promote biodiversity and support economies reliant on healthy and sustainable fisheries.

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management introduced a suite of low-minimum portfolio strategies for retail investors that contribute to one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals—Life Below Water—which combats plastic in oceans and protects coastal ecosystems from pollution.

Fostering Partnerships in Plastic Waste Reduction

A second key component of the Plastic Waste Resolution is partnering with leading academics and nonprofits to facilitate innovation throughout the plastics value chain. One example is our partnership with National Geographic Society and University of Georgia’s College of Engineering, through which we support the Marine Debris Tracker mobile app, a tool that helps researchers better understand plastic waste streams.

The Marine Debris Tracker scales citizen science to understand how plastic waste impacts coastlines, waterways and other parts of the natural environment; it is the only litter-tracking tool that enables users to learn by exploring and contributing to an open data platform. To date, more than 2 million items have been tracked by thousands of citizen scientists, and our Institutional Equities Division in France sponsored an expedition along the Ganges River in India and Bangladesh that used the Marine Debris Tracker app to document more than 85,000 pieces of litter.

This year, as part of our long-standing partnership with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, we introduced a new plastics component to our annual Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge. Graduate students from around the world took the opportunity to pitch innovative financial ideas to help mitigate critical social and environmental problems. This year’s winning team from NYU Stern School of Business and Wagner School of Public Service received $10,000 for their Refugee ETF proposal, and a team from Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Program that pitched an idea to help reduce plastic waste through investments in the seaweed-based bioplastics value chain received $5,000—a first-ever prize focused on plastic pollution mitigation as part of the Plastic Waste Resolution.

Single-use plastic containers and cutlery in our cafeterias have been replaced with compostable materials, supporting our global reduction of single-use plastic by 104 metric tons.

Removing Plastic at Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley employees have also worked to eliminate plastic waste in our offices through our Sustainability at Work program. Over the past year, single-use plastic containers and cutlery in our cafeterias have been replaced with compostable materials, supporting our global reduction of single-use plastic by 104 metric tons. Employees are also taking action through scanning Fill It Forward stickers affixed to their reusable bottles, so they can log the number of times they refill instead of purchasing a single-use bottle; each scan also yields a donation to a global clean water project. We’re at 100,000 scans and counting; that’s 3,000 pounds of waste diverted from landfills and 600 pounds kept from our oceans just through individuals choosing to avoid plastic waste each time they reach for a drink.

Combating plastic waste is one of the world’s most challenging sustainability issues. It’s also a key economic issue. Morgan Stanley is leading the search for solutions because plastic waste mitigation is integral to our firm’s values and it’s an opportunity for our clients and partners. We’re encouraged by the progress in the course of a year and excited for what the future holds.