Case Study: Plastic Solutions Fund

October 15, 2018

The Plastic Solutions Fund, an international funder collaborative, works to stem the tide of plastic pollution into the environment. It supports projects to reduce production of single-use plastic and packaging, focusing on key drivers of systems change in the plastic supply chain.

Launched in January 2017, it grew out of funding from the Oak and Marisla Foundations to a core group of NGOs building a shared strategy and collaborating more effectively on the global challenge of plastics.   Nicky Davies, who is now the fund’s Program Director, worked with over 50 NGOs and funders from around the world to create a global plastic pollution strategy. The funders committed to securing more funds to form a longer-term entity—thus the Plastic Solutions Fund was born.

The work aims to shift systems in a variety of ways. The team believes that it needs to support the power of activists, using a multilayered NGO strategy to change (1) the behavior of companies that are major plastics users, (2) how cities deal with waste, and 3) how people interact with plastics. It emphasizes normative shifts, learning from the anti-tobacco movement. Technological transformation will play a big role—businesses must change the way they deliver their products, not just the materials.

The fund now has ten partners and members, and aims to grow further. Partners contribute at least $500,000 per year for at least three years; members can join with a lower contribution.  New contributors join with the agreement of the current board.  Voting on grants is generally consensus based although differences of opinion are resolved via a majority vote of Partners. Funders gain a range of benefits through membership, and each may have a different reason for being part of this particular funder collaborative.

The collaborative nature of the funders has been crucial. “I don’t think fundamentally the money would have flowed without this. Our funders reflect the different layers of interest in the plastics lifecycle. You couldn’t address the strategic systems change layers without this,” says Davies. The broader pollution field has few entities pursuing a systems change strategy. This design enables even smaller funders to play an effective role in the larger strategy.

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