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On June 5, we celebrated World Environment Day12023. The theme this year was plastic pollution, and it's high time we address this issue. As the world becomes more aware of the impact of plastic waste, brands like UBS are stepping up their game to create a better, cleaner world. Because let's face it, plastic pollution is no laughing matter. It's a real problem that affects everyone.

First, let's talk about the problem at hand. Did you know that every year, according to the UN2, the world produces over 400 million tons of plastic waste, and that roughly half of that amount ends up in our oceans, harming marine life and ecosystems? There’s enough plastic in our oceans to cover every inch of coastline in the world. And if we don’t take a global approach to combat this issue, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050, according to the World Wildlife Fund3.

So what can we do?

How can we each help reduce plastic pollution?

Well, for starters, we can reduce our plastic consumption. At UBS, we’ve taken steps to reduce plastic use in our offices, and we encourage our clients to do the same. The little things do count. Here are some things we’re encouraging employees and clients to do that you can join in as well.

  1. Reduce plastic usage by using reusable items such as water bottles, coffee cups and shopping bags
  2. Refuse single-use plastic items such as straws and cutlery
  3. Recycle plastic waste properly and support recycling initiatives in your community
  4. Support businesses that prioritize sustainability and eco-friendly practices in their operations
  5. Educate yourself and others about the impact of plastic pollution and ways to reduce plastic usage
  6. Find and volunteer with local beach or river clean-up organizations in your area

How can we reduce plastic already in the oceans?

Reducing plastic use is a great step but it isn’t enough on its own. We also need to address the plastic waste that's already in the ocean. That's where UBS's Sea Beyond the Blue4 initiative comes in. This initiative is focused on protecting the oceans, and it’s set a goal to remove 5 million pieces of plastic from the ocean by 2025.

We’re also investing in companies that are developing sustainable solutions to plastic waste. These companies are using innovative technologies to turn plastic waste into usable products, like building materials and textiles.

Can economics help fight plastic pollution?

One of the key pillars of UBS’s Nobel Perspectives program is creating a sustainable – in all of its definitions – future. The program brings together Nobel Laureates in Economic Sciences to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our planet. According to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, economics can provide a helpful framework when trying to build new, more sustainable models for a changing world. This is something the field has started thinking about more expansively in recent years.

“For a long time, people have been working on integrating economic models with environmental models,” says economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz. “But living within our planetary boundaries is a constraint to which we didn't pay enough attention to.”

While economics, like many fields, is trying to adapt to new challenges and implement modern problem-solving techniques, Stiglitz thinks there’s much to feel optimistic about. “It’s remarkable how as we’ve thought more about climate change, the price of renewable energy has come down, people are changing their patterns of living, what they eat,” says Stiglitz. “It may turn out that our ability to make the goals may be not only easier than we thought but be the basis of a real burst of creative energy that will make our society better off.”

Why a commitment to ESG matters

Our commitment to sustainability goes beyond just reducing plastic waste. We also recognize the critical role that climate change plays in shaping the future of our planet and the global economy. That's one of the reasons why we've developed a comprehensive approach to sustainable investing – an approach which aims toprovide our clients with the choice they need to bring about the change they want to see.

Our sustainable investing approach is grounded in rigorous research and analysis to help us identify companies that we believe are leaders in their respective industries and have a strong commitment to sustainability. We also work closely with our clients to understand their specific ESG goals and preferences, tailoring our recommendations to their unique needs.

We recognize that sustainable investing isn’t just good for the environment, but also makes economic sense. In fact, a recent UBS survey5 found that 66 percent of investors believe that sustainability is important to their investment decisions, indicating a growing demand for sustainable investment options.

Plastic pollution is a real problem that affects everyone. It’s up to all of us to make a difference. So, let’s do our part to create a cleaner, more sustainable world not just one day a year, but all the other days in between, too.

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Heinrich Baer

For four decades at UBS, Heinrich Baer has showcased adept leadership. Since 2018, he's been Country Head of UBS Europe SE, Luxembourg, and Market Head of Wealth Management Benelux & Nordics. In 2020, he was appointed Member of the Management Board of UBS Europe SE, Head of Global Wealth Management Luxembourg, Nordics & Austria, and Head of Asset Management. An IMD Lausanne and Amos Tuck alumnus, he holds the Swiss Federal Diploma for Bankers and the Federal Certificate for Commercial Employees.

Mike Dargan

As UBS's Group Chief Operations and Technology Officer and member of the Group Executive Board, Mike Dargan drives digital transformation and operations efforts. As part of this, Mike leads the teams that include our engineers, cyber security experts, and operations specialists. He also oversees our digital assets strategy where we’re addressing topics such as distributed ledger technology, central bank digital currencies and crypto assets. Follow Mike on LinkedIn.

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