In celebration of World Environment Day on June 5, 2023, the global community is coming together to address one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time: plastic pollution. Under the theme of “Solutions to Plastic Pollution,” this year’s World Environment Day campaign, known as #BeatPlasticPollution, aims to raise awareness and inspire action to combat the detrimental impacts of plastic pollution on health, the economy, and the environment.
To shed light on the vital role of the legal community in tackling plastic pollution, we had the privilege of speaking with Shaun Johnson, the General Counsel of BEEAH Group, a trailblazing organization at the forefront of sustainable waste management solutions. With their extensive experience and expertise, Johnson provides invaluable insights into the legal community’s impact in addressing plastic pollution and fostering a more sustainable future.
What role does the legal community play in raising awareness about the legal and regulatory implications of plastic pollution and the need for responsible plastic waste management?
Senior legal counsel (such as GCs and CLOs) can influence their boards and senior management on responsible practices when it comes to their own company’s operations.
In what ways can the legal community collaborate with governments and regulatory bodies to develop comprehensive and enforceable legislation that addresses all stages of the plastic lifecycle, from production to disposal?
Governments need to provide the political imperative, desire and willingness to reduce plastic use and consequently waste (which in turn should reduce the need for production). It’s up to the legal community to implement the goals of government, and by implementation, I mean developing the legislative framework upon which industry can then operate in a responsible manner. This requires collaboration between legislators, policy makers and legal counsel to effectively cascade down these sustainable goals into practical legal frameworks.
How can lawyers and legal professionals support and guide businesses and organizations in implementing sustainable practices and transitioning to a circular economy that minimizes plastic waste?
This is not an easy task as in-house counsel (with the support of external counsel) support and facilitate commerce and industry, rather than drive it. But certainly we can educate our senior management teams on the bigger picture of compliance and ethics for sustainable practices (and the sanctions for non-compliance also tends to focus the mind!) We are very fortunate in the BEEAH Group as sustainability is part of the Group’s DNA as all our business verticals work together to drive forward a circular economy.
Are there any international conventions, treaties, or agreements that the legal community can leverage to address plastic pollution on a global scale, and what actions can be taken to ensure their effective implementation?
At BEEAH Group, we are always looking at collaborating with partners who share our vision for sustainable development.
For example we recently hosted the Regional Task Group of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste in the MENA region in our HQ (a sustainable and AI integrated building in itself.) We demonstrated to the Alliance how we recycle plastic waste through advanced collection methods, state-of-the-art recycling technologies, and comprehensive environmental education programmes.
The purpose of hosting the Alliance was to conceptualize, develop and implement solutions for reducing plastic consumption, increasing plastic recycling, and minimizing the impact of plastic pollution regionally and internationally.
We are also developing the first certified global standard for recycling credits using a global platform developed on the blockchain. This platform is developed with our partners ISWA (International Solid Waste Association) and Roland Berger under the patronage of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCaE). The platform will support tracking and authentication of recycling activity, enabling organisations to meet sustainability and emissions targets in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and be launched during COP 28.
As the Group General Counsel of BEEAH Group, how does the issue of plastic pollution align with the company’s sustainability goals and initiatives?
We have many business verticals within the BEEAH Group, across a number of sectors such as integrated waste management, recycling, energy, infrastructure, digital, health, education, transport and real estate and all of them have sustainability and digitalization as their two guiding pillars. For example, as part of our approach to a ‘circular economy’, BEEAH Tandeef collects and separates waste and then we send it to BEEAH Recycling who receives plastics into our recycling facilities to convert into a reusable form. We also divert some of collected waste to BEEAH Energy’s Shajah Waste to Energy Plant to turn into energy.
What role does BEEAH Group play in raising awareness about plastic pollution and its detrimental effects on health, the economy, and the environment?
BEEAH Education was established to create an awareness around sustainability and the environment and we now deploy curriculum and courses within schools. We also have partnered up with major international universities to either collaborate on courses or to invite them into our facilities so their students can see how BEEAH tackles sustainability, recycling, energy and environmental issues. For example, BEEAH Education recently launched the ‘Future Pioneers Award’ which is a global award for students to influence positive environmental action, encourage leadership in environmental protection at an early age. We believe that education our younger generation is a key pillar to developing a circular economy.
What role can the legal department, under your leadership, play in advancing BEEAH Group’s mission to combat plastic pollution and promote sustainable practices?
At BEEAH Legal we are always looking internally at ways to improve how we work, with some standard principles of working such as going paperless (unless absolutely necessary), or using online conferencing facilities in place of travel etc. In addition, I am now asking my extensive roster of external counsel to show us their ‘green’ credentials but more than just seeking marketing material from their BD teams, I’m looking at how they ‘live and breathe’ such practices within their firm. It’s
important that they demonstrate how they genuinely deploy sustainable working practices or engage in sustainable initiatives as they are the law firms that the BEEAH Group will ultimately want to work with.