Turning the tide on plastics – RPO’s fourth Women’s Forum

Rathbone Private Office hosted our fourth Women’s Forum on 4 March 2019. Speakers and guests met in London to discuss efforts to ‘turn the tide’ on plastic consumption in support of the New Plastics Economy initiative. We were also privileged to learn of the personal challenges and triumphs of keynote speaker Kiko Matthews – the fastest female to row solo and unaided across the Atlantic – and understand more about her own plans to help individuals and communities across the UK tackle the problem of plastic waste.

After an introductory address by Ian Dembinski, head of Rathbone Private Office, Kiko spoke candidly about how her past struggles with Cushing’s disease and associated complications redefined her perspective on life and how she wanted to live it and educate and inspire others. Love of adventure and the wider environment led eventually to her Atlantic crossing record attempt: despite no prior rowing experience and the discovery and removal of a life-threatening tumour halfway through training, Kiko broke the female world record by almost a week on 22 March 2018. Her funding campaign for the attempt – 100togetHER – focused on encouraging women to collaborate with and support each other. Kiko further demonstrated her commitment to that ethos by joining Team Like A Girl’s 260km ultramarathon across Jordan’s Wadi Rum Desert in October 2018.

Connecting environmental stewardship to community wellbeing, Kiko’s own efforts to reduce plastic waste emphasise the capacity of individuals to make a material difference. Her KikPlastic campaign launching in May 2019, involves a three month, 7,200km cycle journey around the UK coastline, cleaning beaches along the way and mobilising local support. Engaging communities in this way, Kiko hopes to encourage greater individual involvement and educate more people about their lifestyle and consumer choices. To express our own support, Rathbones has pledged to sponsor a beach clean and a leg of Kiko’s coastal route.

Chaired by Rathbones’ Rebecca Tunstall, the panel discussion that followed brought together innovators working to preserve the long-term value of plastic or seeking to redefine our relationship with it as investors and consumers.

Adrian Griffiths, founder and CEO of Recycling Technologies, highlighted his company’s efforts to expand global recycling capacity. Chief amongst these is the ongoing development of a machine – the RT7000 – which is capable of recycling diverse forms of hitherto ‘unrecyclable’ plastic, converting waste into a valuable base product. Adrian also drew attention to the need for investment in national infrastructure to improve our waste and resource management and provide greater clarity for consumers on how to recycle effectively.

Ashleigh Bishop, CMO and founding partner at Bagboard Ltd, explained how her company is circulating ad-branded, reusable paper bags among 2,000 retail partners in London. Funded entirely by advertisers, these bags are issued free with the aim of further reducing the capital’s reliance on single-use plastic bags. Consumers who use the Bagboard app also know that for each digital engagement, the equivalent of 1kg of plastic is being offset from the environment.

Victoria Hoskins, investment director at Rathbone Greenbank, described how socially responsible investors assess a company’s consumption and management of plastic across its value chain – not only assessing its recycling or repurposing capacity, but also determining how responsibly plastic is being used in its wider operations. Greenbank supports the New Plastic Economy movement’s commitment to encourage innovation and align plastic to a more circular economic model of use and reuse. Echoing the theme of individual empowerment, Victoria illustrated the capacity of investors to generate positive outcomes through their voting rights.

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