Single Use Plastics: Key Stakeholders for 2018

Following the rapid rise in public concern about the environmental damage caused by single use plastics, the communities engaged in the debate now include the UK government, NGOs, retailers and fast-food chains. As the space gets crowded, which organisations have an influential voice and how are the different communities connecting?

As a follow-up to our analysis of the impact of Blue Planet II, here’s an updated map of the key stakeholders operating in the debate on #SingleUsePlastic.

First, a quick introduction to our approach. ‘Key stakeholders’ means individuals or organisations who are both influential AND well connected in discussions about a specific topic. By influential, we mean those who are referenced by others who are themselves highly referenced in a debate. This was originally how Google ranked its search engine results pages. By well connected, we mean those who act as gatekeepers. They are key to information flow and have the power to encourage (or prevent) dialogue.

When we last examined this issue in 2017 the UK government was not a significant presence, but as discussion of plastic waste reduction moves towards action, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Defra have become important reference points for the main campaigning organisations. 

The retail sector is also being drawn into the debate and the supermarkets cluster is now far more pronounced than it was in 2017. There are both good and bad reasons for this trend. The UK Plastics Pact launched last month has created a forum for collective action by 2025. In the meantime retailers and manufacturers are being targeted by #PackShaming activists and micro-influencers who use Twitter and Instagram to share examples of excessive packaging. 

The same goes for fast-food and coffee chains, with Pret A Manger, Starbucks and McDonald’s emerging as a separate cluster defined by the impact of disposable plastic cups and straws. 

Affiliate programmes designed to spread awareness and support for action on single use plastics are becoming more visible; in the top right quadrant the National Trust is connecting with its membership, although the majority of NT members are not engaging with the wider community and remain in their own independent cluster. In the bottom-left quadrant, Sky Ocean Rescue’s tie-up with the Premier League  has brought @SpursOfficial into the debate and the Premier League will be looking to secure the support of more clubs to deliver access to the wider football community.

The engagement strategies of each organisation will determine how their position in the network changes over time. Some of them may be comfortable occupying a central position in the network; others may prefer to engage with a specific community. Our mapping techniques mean we can measure progress either way. Watch out for our next update in July.

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