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July 26, 2019

Circular Economy Policy: The Victorian Government Leading The Conversation

The Victorian government has set the challenge of implementing a circular economy policy – a policy whereby waste is recycled into renewable energy, whilst promoting growth of the economy, increasing jobs and reducing the impact waste is having on the environment. Government bodies are leading the conversations around these issues and initiatives with discussions around making the recycling system more resilient and sustainable in order to solve the recycling issue by recycling locally and shipping waste overseas.

Turning waste into energy

In response to this, the Advanced Circular Polymers’ facility has since opened in Victoria – having a processing capacity of 70,000 tonnes a year, it positions Victoria as the hub of remanufacturing in Australia. Partly funded by the Victorian Government and given a $500,000 Sustainability grant, Australia’s largest recycling plant will be powered by renewable energy from a nearby wind farm and will transform large quantities of low-value contaminated mixed plastics from households into high-quality commodities that can go directly into the manufacturer of new products. 

This state of the art plant will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and play a large role in the nations transition to using renewable energy. 

Why now?

Previously, Australia has relied heavily on China to process recovered plastics with the process involving the waste being collected, sent overseas, reprocessed and then sent back to Australia. A very costly exercise. China has been the largest importer of Australia’s recovered material however in January 2018, China imposed a strict contamination standard on recyclables involving plastic and paper and have banned Australia from sending their waste to the country. 

In May 2019 the Victorian government announced a $35 million Recycling Industry Reform Package to be delivered over three years, to alleviate recycling waste going to landfill as a result of waste companies being forced to stockpile. This package will support the waste and resource recovery sector within Victoria.

Not surprisingly, Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has been leading the conversations around local councils, local recycling and shipping waste internationally, with over fifty one per cent of mentions on these topics. 

Breaching regulations

Thirty local Victorian councils have been greatly impacted due to being contracted to one of the larger recycling plants who contribute to fifty per cent of curbside recyclables. This operator is facing liquidation as creditors take court action to have it shut down for not being compliant with the Waste Management Policy.

The Environmental Protection Authority Victoria reports this particular facility was issued notices to modify their configuration of its combustible recyclable and waste material stockpiles however failed to do in the requested time frames. The Victorian Waste Management Policy enforced the company to cease accepting any further waste as these stockpiles contained flammable items including batteries, electronic waste and aerosol cans.

Although China’s recycling ban has caused Australia some issues and has forced a re-think on how recycled waste can be processed, it has thankfully started conversations for the Victorian government and governments around the world to shift to a more circular global economy. With adhering to environmental regulations and adopting safer practices, recycling systems worldwide can become more resilient and effective.   

If you would like to understand who is leading the conversations on any topic, with any brand or audience, get in touch with us today

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published anti-greenwashing guidelines for businesses making environmental and sustainability claims. Despite these efforts, media coverage of greenwashing, particularly focusing on senate inquiries and regulatory court cases against major offenders, continues to expose brands and industries stretching the truth in their sustainability messaging. This exposure is causing a growing disconnect between consumers and corporations, as audiences increasingly call out misleading practices and question the authenticity of corporate sustainability claims.Isentia’s sister brand, Pulsar conducted recent research exploring media and public discourse around sustainability. Part of this report examines how greenwashing is covered in the news and on social media, particularly in relation to the broader sustainability discourse. Let’s investigate those themes in more depth here.

Social media data is decreasing while online news activity re-engages, indicating incident-led conversations. Regulatory bodies like the ACCC, and state and federal governments are tackling greenwashing by identifying major corporate offenders and their misleading actions, such as 'recyclable' packaging, carbon credit misuse, lack of transparency in fossil fuel investments, and exploitation of government climate programs. Audience conversations often align with news coverage on these matters.
The term in Australia particularly gained traction among social audiences around November 2022 when the UN called out the Australian government for allowing the use of carbon offsets in corporate emissions reduction strategies. News of the apparent collusion between the government and large corporations has caused public faith and trust in both to dwindle. As these stories emerge, Australia's positive sustainability impact on the international stage is significantly undermined.

https://twitter.com/janegarcia/status/1591662729664004099

When we look at which sectors are most discussed within the greenwashing topic, energy, finance, and food take the lead.

Much of the discussion regarding the energy and finance sectors emphasises their interconnectedness, particularly the investment by financial institutions, including super funds, in environmentally harmful industries. Despite some super funds claiming to offer options that avoid unsustainable investments, reports have revealed that they collectively hold millions of shares in the fossil fuel industry. 

Many industries are being criticised for using carbon credits, such as REDD+ offsets, to appear more sustainable. Advertising, marketing, and public relations also play a significant role in promoting misleading sustainability initiatives, thereby contributing to greenwashing. However, stakeholders are aware that the advertising and communications industries have a huge impact on the profitability and success of an industry or product. The European Union’s Product Environmental Footprint classification system, for example, has been criticised by Australia’s wool industry for being unfair to wool products and for greenwashing. This, they argue, not only undermines the pursuit of a green transition within fashion but also damages a vital industry.

Mercer stands out as a most mentioned brand within the topic of greenwashing. This is due to ASIC pursuing a civic penalty case against them which alleged they misled members about its sustainability investments. This is groundbreaking for audiences to witness as it would be the first time the consumer watchdog has taken a company to court for alleged greenwashing.

https://twitter.com/BillHareClimate/status/1630404986130808833

Much of the conversation focuses on misinformation and lack of transparency in communication and marketing. Certifications like Fair Trade are being questioned, particularly for products like chocolate, and eco-certification for farmed salmon. It particularly muddies the waters for political figures when they get entangled with brands coming under scrutiny for such greenwashing.

https://twitter.com/JosieMcskimming/status/1750987402691362858

Furthermore, some companies feature in the media conversation due to their involvement in a senate enquiry initiated in March 2023, with a report expected by June 28th this year. 

Analysis of the ANZ reveals a shift in mindset, with consumers emphasising individual actions for solutions like composting or guerilla campaigns on mislabelled environmentally friendly salmon products. Grassroots and individual activism leading to actions like divestment from conflicting companies. Community groups like uni student clubs showcase how groups with shared values and experiences can make noise and incite change with how universities invest. However, there are ongoing debates as to whether it’s the role of sectors like higher education or Super Funds to prioritise the environmental implications of their decisions.

The rise in curiosity around greenwashing highlights the growing consumer demand for transparency and genuine sustainability from brands. As regulatory scrutiny and public awareness increase, brands must ensure their sustainability claims are genuine or face reputation damage.

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Blog
The Eco-Spin Cycle: how brand’s sustainability claims come out in the wash

Regulators are cracking down on corporate greenwashing, but what does media discussion reveal about its impact on brand-consumer relations?

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As the spotlight on sustainability intensifies year by year, it has become a focal point for legislators, media entities, and audiences worldwide.

This dynamic environment demands that brands and institutions elevate their standards in messaging and actions, holding them accountable like never before. For professionals in the PR & Comms realm, it is imperative to grasp not only how sustainability is being discussed but also the potential pitfalls, such as greenwashing, and gain a profound understanding of the diverse audiences receiving these messages.

Explore over 20 beautifully crafted pages of data visualisation that illuminate audience insights sourced from social media, news outlets, and search engines. Gain valuable perspectives on how one of the defining issues of our time is being discussed and understood.

Our exploration of this crucial topic delves deep into uncovering insights that are indispensable for crafting effective strategies, both tactical and long-term:

-Unraveling trends in the sustainability conversation

-Assessing brand & industry reputations

-Navigating greenwashing & misinformation

-Understanding the diverse audiences of sustainability

To access these insights, simply fill in the form

Download now

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Blog
Sustainability: Mapping the Media & Public Conversations

From accusations of greenwashing to the role of misinformation, we explore the comms landscape around sustainability.

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