About the Brand Audit

A brand audit is a participatory science initiative that involves counting and documenting the brands found on plastic waste to help identify the corporations responsible for plastic pollution.

The foundational brand audit methodology was designed by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Mother Earth Foundation, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), and Greenpeace Philippines. These pioneering groups collaborated in 2017 to organize the first large-scale brand audit on Freedom Island in the Philippines.

Brand Audit by the numbers

206,895

VOLUNTEERS

2,373

BRAND AUDIT EVENTS

2,125,414

PLASTICS COLLECTED/AUDITED

87

COUNTRIES

Impact

Changing Systems Using the Law

BFFP members have used brand audit data to pass bans on single-use plastic, create zero waste communities and plastic-free schools, file lawsuits, and advocate for policy change through Extended Producer Responsibility (or Polluter Pay initiatives) and Deposit Return Systems. In big and small ways, brand audit data is a powerful tool to change systems – whether a small campus community, an island, or an entire country or company. Here are just a few examples!

Global Plastic Treaty

BFFP Youth Ambassador, Rafael Eudes, organized brand audits along Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in February 2022 to pressure the Brazilian government to support a global plastics treaty at UNEA 5.2!

Lawsuits

Citing brand audit data, BFFP member organizations in the USA have filed three different lawsuits in 2021 alone against top polluter The Coca-Cola Company for public nuisance and defective product liability, false and deceptive advertising, and misleading consumers on plastic bottle recycling.

Bans

On the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, local organizers with Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and Bantay Bukid hosted a brand audit in the Panigan-Tamugan watershed – one of the main sources of clean drinking water – in Davao City as part of a national month-long Zero Waste celebration. The group announced their brand audit data results and used the media attention to apply pressure to the Davao City council to pass the “No to Single-Use Plastic Ordinance” in March 2021.

Plastic-Free Campus

Alex Gordon, a student at Eckerd College in Florida, USA, conducted brand audits three years in a row and used the results to urge her school administrators to sign the plastic-free campus pledge. And it worked! Marshall University in West Virginia as well as Zero Waste Youth Negros Oriental in the Philippines also used their brand audit results to convince their campus president to sign the pledge to become a Plastic-Free Campus.

Producer responsibility for waste

In May 2018, over 15,000 volunteers conducted waste and brand audits in 250 sites across India to “Beat Plastic Pollution” for World Environment Day. With India as the global host, 10 GAIA member organizations coordinated brand audits in 15 different Indian cities to identify the top corporate polluters using Break Free From Plastic methodology. In Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala in India, one brand audit in particular led to some exciting solutions. Local NGO Thanal audited 75 households for three weeks, and then presented the data results to the municipal authorities to demand the top polluting brands set up alternative delivery systems. Thiruvananthapuram is a success story that stands out for its municipality’s commitment to demand corporate accountability for waste.

Rewriting the Plastic Pollution Story

Thanks to the incredible work of brand audit leaders around the world,we have held FMCG companies accountable for their plastic pollution through our annual global reports, several films, and BFFP members’ own brand audit reports. These combined efforts are changing the story about plastic pollution, catalyzing conversations about its real causes and fueling efforts to create real solutions.

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Our annual brand audit report has earned news coverage in major international media outlets like The Guardian, CNN, BBC, Le Monde, Reuters, and many more. All this media attention successfully amplifies the call for corporate polluters to take responsibility for plastic pollution and influences the dominant plastics narrative around the world. It is now the norm to see The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever to be labeled ‘a top plastic polluter’ in any news story about them. Since we began gathering data in 2018, BFFP’s brand audits have been mentioned in over 500 media articles written in 30 different languages! In addition to the annual global BFFP brand audit report, over a dozen BFFP members and allies have published brand audit reports of their own. By doing so, they are strengthening our collective impact at the local and national level, influencing policy makers and demanding corporate accountability at the national level. There are now country brand audit reports in Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, UK, USA, Vietnam – and more coming soon!

In addition to our global and member-led reports, we also have shared our brand audit findings in films. The #breakfreefromplastic movement’s documentary, The Story of Plastic, features brand audits and recently won an Emmy award! In 2020, we collaborated with waste picker groups to conduct brand audits and co-produced a short film, Not Disposable: Waste Pickers. This film put waste pickers in the spotlight to directly call out the corporations challenging their livelihoods. In 2021, BFFP co-launched with BBC Panorama’s new documentary, Coca-Cola’s Billion Bottle Problem, which featured BFFP leaders, brand audits, and our 2021 data results naming The Coca-Cola company as #1 top polluter.

New Corporate Sustainability Commitments

In February 2022, The Coca-Cola Company announced a new voluntary goal of 25% reusable packaging by 2030. With cautious optimism, for the thousands of participants who have conducted brand audits this is a major step in our campaign challenging fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies to invest in reuse and refill systems to tackle the climate and plastic crisis.

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The Coca-Cola Company has consistently been the world’s top plastic polluter since the beginning of our data collecting efforts.
This new reuse commitment does not mean our work is over – far from it – but it does mark an important milestone. Until now, The Coca-Cola Company’s sustainability efforts had focused primarily on end-of-pipe collection, numerous cleanup projects and even selling plastic bottles made out of ocean plastic pollution they helped create. Previous statements from key Coca-Cola Company staff had framed plastic pollution as primarily a “consumer littering” problem, and touting recycling as the ultimate solution.

In the new Coca-Cola announcement, the company now acknowledges reuse as an effective way to reduce carbon emissions, a major shift after years of industry advocating that reuse would have higher carbon emissions. “Reusable packaging is among the most effective ways to reduce waste, use fewer resources and lower our carbon footprint in support of a circular economy,” said Ben Jordan, Senior Director, Packaging and Climate of The Coca-Cola Company (2022). Just a few years ago, this kind of statement coming from the world’s largest FMCG company would have been unthinkable. More and more companies are waking up to the benefits of reuse and we hope to see many more commitments in the near future.

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