Summary: Spain has introduced regulations that compel tobacco companies to pay for the cleaning up of cigarette butts left on the country’s streets. The rules also prohibit the use of single-use plastic cutlery and plastic straws. Cigarette manufacturers are also now required to remind consumers not to throw cigarette ends in public areas. There are no details yet on how the clean up will be carried out.
Why this is important: Beyond tobacco, this story illustrates an important trend that investors and strategic decision-makers need to be aware of: the extension of responsibility further into the value chain of the product or service being provided. In this case it is an 'after the fact' requirement. However, businesses could start to get ahead of things and even reduce their risk exposure.
The big theme: As the transition to a more sustainable way of life picks up pace we shall gradually see more emphasis placed on understanding the full life-cycle cost of products including remediation. This has been evident in both power generation and industrial processes with carbon pricing evolving to account for emissions (and dumping) and is changing decision-making. Insurers are factoring in broader sustainability themes into their assessment of underwriting risk and costs of remediation are likely to be factored in. Liability and litigation risk will likely to be a catalyst for businesses transitioning and could see fundamental changes to business models bringing both additional costs, potentially stranded assets but also new opportunities. Zeroing in on cigarette butts and smoking in particular, the obvious sustainability theme is health and well-being not just from the direct impacts of smoking but also from street pollution and waste and the impact that has on well-being.
Summary of a story from The Guardian:
New environmental regulations now in force in Spain designed to reduce waste and increase recycling include measures ranging from bans on single-use cutlery and plates, plastic straws and food packaging and requiring tobacco companies to bear the cost of cleaning up discarded cigarette butts. Whilst there have been no details on how the clean-up would actually be implemented or indeed the cost, one study put the cost at approaching €1 billion in total or more than €20 per person per year.