Volvo Penta’s work with plastic waste reduction and the United Nations’ Clean Seas campaign

In February 2017, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched Clean Seas – a campaign with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, and the private sector, in the fight against plastic pollution in the oceans. Volvo Penta is a proud supporter of the Clean Seas campaign. Our goal is not only to reduce our own consumption of plastic, but to inspire others to do the same. The interest in and engagement surrounding this issue, among co-workers as well as partners and customers, has been striking.

Three key reasons for our support of the Clean Seas campaign

Working with the Volvo Ocean Race gave us great insight into the sheer magnitude of the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans. The marine industry makes up a significant portion of Volvo Penta’s business, powering both commercial vessels and leisure boats. Our network of dealers, partners, customers, even social media followers, is vast. Given our level of engagement in this industry, we are convinced that we can make a real difference. The realization of the scope of the problem of plastic pollution, combined with our role in the marine industry, and the belief that we can contribute in this effort, forms the basis of our engagement in the Clean Seas campaign.

Goals and purposes of our Clean Seas engagement

Volvo Penta’s primary goal in supporting the Clean Seas campaign is to bolster engagement in and knowledge about the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans. We want to reach all our stakeholders, and inspire other companies, organizations and individuals as well. That said, we also need to set a concrete example, and work diligently to reduce our own plastic consumption.

Upon becoming a Clean Seas supporter, Volvo Penta set up five explicit commitments on how we would reduce plastic waste as well as our own usage of single-use plastics:

Phase out single-use plastic items in employee facilities

Single-use plastic items are being removed from Volvo Penta’s offices worldwide. Recycling – of plastic as well as other materials – is another important aspect of this work. Material recycling has long been a priority within the company’s workshops and production facilities. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the same awareness and routines apply to our offices as well.

Make a plastic-free lifestyle available and attractive to employees

Volvo Penta wants to make it easy for employees to consume as little plastic as possible. Providing a refillable water bottle for every employee reduces the plastic waste otherwise caused by bottled water. Kitchens and cafeterias are equipped with refrigerators and microwave ovens. Being able to keep and heat food in the workplace lowers the consumption of takeaway containers.

Sustainability training for our Green Team of employees

All employees are taught about sustainability. We have created a global “Green Team” that will identify, implement and support Clean Seas initiatives. This network consists of representatives from all of Volvo Penta’s offices. They meet regularly to share insights, experiences and the challenges they encounter in their work with our Clean Seas commitments.

Keep company events free from single-use plastic items

Volvo Penta is making a continuous effort to reduce the amount of plastic used and discarded at our events. That means reducing the number of disposable water bottles, plastic straws, wrapped candies, and more. Our exhibition stands often have water coolers where visitors are able to refill their water bottles. In addition to reducing waste, it also provides a good opportunity to discuss the issue, and share ideas. More on this topic below.

Regularly communicate about sustainability and plastic pollution

We drive the Clean Sea conversation by building on the success of pilot tests and activities that have raised awareness of and engagement for the importance of reducing plastic waste.

Volvo Penta Clean Seas

Changing behavior is essential to plastic waste reduction

While the Clean Seas campaign focuses on plastic pollution, Volvo Penta seeks to reduce our material waste across the board. A key factor in this work is changing behavior – our own, as well as that of others. More specifically, it is important to overcome the “dubious convenience” that single-use plastics in particular offer.

This is why we are focusing on not just our workplaces, but our events as well. Events and trade shows result in a lot of plastic consumption. Finding replacement products for plastic items can be a challenge, but a miniscule one compared to the challenges posed by plastic pollution worldwide. It is important to keep in mind that the consumption and discarding of plastic that typically happens at events, can be changed if we just put in the effort required.

In addition to the measures outlined above, we also try to make it easy and effortless for our visitors to recycle items and materials at our events. Visitors are also encouraged to write down their own suggestions on what they think can be done; about plastic pollution in general, and by Volvo Penta in particular. In conversations with visitors and employees, we sometimes ask them whether they themselves have reduced their plastic consumption, and how.

We can all contribute to reducing plastic waste

In our effort toward greater sustainability and plastic waste reduction, we cooperate with a variety of other companies and organizations. These include the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Stena Recycling – an authority in the field of recycling and sustainability. Being a supporter of the Clean Seas campaign also means working directly alongside the United Nations. Last year, we arranged a major conference together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Plastic waste reduction – and waste material reduction in general – is an environmental effort to which everyone and anyone can contribute. The Clean Seas campaign is no exception, with a large number of countries, companies and organizations participating. The response we have received so far, internally as well as externally, has been very positive indeed. It is highly important not to underestimate actions that may revolve around minor items, but which impact people and communities around the world.

We hope to return to this subject in the future, including the work we do with our Volvo Penta products, their packaging materials, and their spare parts, for example. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this topic. You can find more articles on our work with reducing marine emissions, sustainable forestry, and a whole lot more, here on our Volvo Penta Professional Power Blog.

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