Anti-Plastic Spending

Part
01
of two
Part
01

Anti-Plastic Spending in the United States - Part 1

While there is no publicly available information to answer to exact details for each company on what was spent on anti-plastic advertising and advocacy, we were able to identify some details that may be of value. Below is an outline of the research strategies to better understand why the information requested is publicly unavailable, as well as a deep dive into the findings that were available and could prove beneficial.

CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

  • Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is a not-for-profit environmental law firm founded to strengthen international and comparative environmental law and policy around the world. The main areas that the organization focuses on are climate, forests, toxins, and plastics, among others.
  • For their fiscal year ending June 2018, CIEL spent a total of $284 on advertising and promotion. $204 went to program service expenses while $80 went to management and general expenses.
  • In their fiscal year ending June 2017, the organization spent $2,600 in total on advertising and promotion where $2,470 was for program service expenses and $13 was for management and general expenses.

STORY OF STUFF

  • Story of Stuff is an organization that creates awareness about how we have too much stuff and that most of it is toxic. Therefore, it is involved in several campaigns to help save our climate and environment, as a whole.
  • According to Facebook Ads, Story of Stuff has spent $1,017 on adverts between May 2018 and August 2019.
  • In their tax filings for the year ending December 2017, Story of Stuff stated to have spent $0 on advertising and promotion.

GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR INCINERATOR ALTERNATIVES

  • This organization has three main initiatives which are to promote zero-waste, reduce problematic waste streams like plastic, and put an end to the ineffective and hazardous practice of burning waste.
  • Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives recorded in their tax filings for the financial year ending March 2018 to have spent $1,089 in advertising and promotions; $924 was for program service expenses and $165 was for management and general expenses.
  • In their financial year ending March 2017, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives spent $1,147 in advertising and promotions.

GREENPEACE USA

  • Greenpeace USA is an organization that uses not only peaceful protests but also creative communication to try to increase awareness on the world's biggest environmental problems as well as try to find solutions.
  • Greenpeace does not only advocate for anti-plastic, but it also addresses all the problems revolving around environmental problems. However, plastic pollution is addressed under their campaign to protect oceans as well as marine life.
  • According to Facebook Ads, Greenpeace USA has spent $831,754 on Ads between May 2018 and August 2019 with $45,829 of the money having been spent in just one week (11th-17th Aug 2019).
  • As per the Greenpeace 2017 form 990, the organization spent $703,976 in advertising and promotion in 2017.

OCEANA

  • Just like Greenpeace, Oceana has several campaigns to help save (preserve and restore) oceans. Responsible fishing which is meant for an issue such as protecting dolphins from indiscriminate fishing gear is one of the campaigns. Ending the use of plastic is also on their list of campaigns.
  • Between May 2018 and August 2019, Oceana has spent a total of $312,233 on advertising with $1,480 of that money having been spent between 11th and 17th August 2019.
  • As of December 2017, Oceana recorded in their tax filings to have spent a total of $834,444 on advertising and promotion. This total was broken down to $713,320 on program service expenses, $48,536 on management and general expenses and $72,588 on fundraising expenses.

BREAK FREE FROM PLASTIC CAMPAIGN

  • Break Free From Plastic movement was started in September 2016 and according to Ad library, it has spent less than or equal to $100 on adverts between May 2018 to August 2019.

PLASTIC POLLUTION CAMPAIGN

  • Plastic Pollution Coalition is a project of the Earth Island Institute.
  • As of June 2018, Earth Island Institute recorded in their tax filing to have spent $94,156 on advertising and promotion. Moreover, as of June 2017, the organization spent $107,854 on advertising.

U.N. CLEAN SEAS CAMPAIGN

  • The UN Environment launched the clean seas campaign in February 2017.

Research Strategy:

After an extensive search, there were no available databases, articles, blogs, or any publications out there that had insights on how much the companies spent advocating/advertising on anti-plastic campaigns/initiatives. The research team reviewed annual reports, Facebook library Ads, Propublica resources to find the companies' expenses and revenues knowing that would help to find how much the companies spent on advertising and promotions. We were able to find how much some of the companies spent on advertising and promotion in 2017, 2018 and between May 2018-August 2019.

It should be noted that most of the annual reports and tax filing forms located had information on the companies' spending on advertising and promotions but none of them narrowed down how much was specifically spent on anti-plastic campaigns. Moreover, in some reports, the companies' fiscal years were ending in either June or March and not in December which normally marks the end of the year, so strict yearly breakdowns were not available in most instances. Also, the Facebook Ad library provided information on how much the companies spent between May 2018 and August 2019. We attempted to triangulate the information to get how much was specifically spent in 2018. For example, we divided the amount of money Greenpeace spent on Ads between May 2018 and August 2019 with the number of months in that period (16) to get the approximate amount spent on Ads per month ($831,745/16) which would be approximately $51,985; then use this amount to calculate how much Greenpeace roughly spent on Ads per year ($51985*12). But this wouldn't be accurate because $45,829 of the money Greenpeace USA spent on Ads between May 2018 and August 2019 was spent in just a week (11th-17th Aug 2019). Therefore, there was no formula we could use to triangulate the answers and specifically narrow down how much the companies spent in 2017 and 2018.

Also, the team could not locate how much the Plastic Pollution Coalition spent on advertising in 2017 and 2018, but since it is a project of the Earth Island Institute, we went ahead and found out the amount the Institute spent on adverts. In addition to this, we, unfortunately, could not find any source stating how much the UN Clean Seas campaign has spent on advertising and advocacy since it was launched.
Part
02
of two
Part
02

Anti-Plastic Spending in the United States - Part 2

While there is no publicly available information to answer the question fully, we've used the available data to pull together key findings of the total advertising spending by the organizations for the year 2017 to 2018. Additionally, for most organizations, we were able to identify their Facebook Ad spending using the Ad Library. Below is an outline of our research strategies to better understand why the information requested is publicly unavailable, as well as a deep dive into our findings.


ANTI-PLASTIC SPENDING IN THE US

I. SURFRIDER FOUNDATION

  • The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organization that involves people who have a passion for protecting the oceans and beaches from harmful elements like plastic wastes.
  • According to Facebook ads, the Surfrider Foundation spent about $8,568 on advertisement about social issues, elections, and politics from May 2018 to August 2019.
  • Bellingham Polystyrene Ordinance, Norwalk: says NO to the single-use plastic bags, and the use of utensils only upon request in Los Angeles are some campaigns operated by the Surfrider Foundation focused on anti-plastic usage in the United States.

II. THE ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP (EWG)

  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that protects human health and the environment.
  • EWG posted over 1,000 times on Facebook averaging 1,31,000 impression per post, and around 859.432 people participated in their action campaigns.
  • Between May 2018 and August 2019, EWG spent a total of $162,086 on advertising, and about $864 was spent between 11th and 17th August 2019.

III. HEAL THE BAY

  • Heal the Bay is a non-profit organization that works to protect the coastline and revitalize the waterways.
  • Heal the Bay is an environmental organization dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds of Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy and clean. To fulfill its mission, the organization makes use of science, education, community action, and advocacy.
  • Between May 2018 and August 2019, Heal the Bay spent a total of $916 on advertising; additionally, $0 was spent between 11th and 17th August 2019.
  • Heal The Bay has spent $22,506 on advertising and promotions in the year 2018.

IV. CLEAN WATER ACTION

  • Clean Water Action works to protect the environment, health, well-being, and community quality of life.
  • Between May 2018 and August 2019, Clean Water Action has spent a total of $5,895 on advertising with $0 being spent between 11th and 17th August 2019.

V. UPSTREAM

  • The main goal of the organization is to reduce plastic disposal and plastic pollution.
  • Upstream has launched several initiatives specific to anti-plastic awareness; these initiatives include Throw-Away-Free-Places, Throw-Away-Free-Communities, and Throw-Away-Free Living.
  • The organization has worked to collect 20 high pollution plastic products that can be substituted with a more environmentally friendly alternative of plastics.

VI. NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENCE COUNCIL (NRDC)

  • NRDC aims to protect marine life by preventing plastic pollution from reaching the ocean in the first place.
  • NRDC works at the state level to support the types of strategies used to sharply reduce the use of major culprits that enter the ocean, such as single-use plastic bags.
  • As per NRDC findings, California State spends about $428 million annually to clean up plastic trash and debris from waterways.
  • Between May 2018 and August 2019, NRDC spent a total of $1,676,188 on advertising with $17,288 of money being spent between 11th and 17th August 2019.
  • NRDC spent about $6,062,004 on public affairs and advertising in the year 2017-18.

VII. EARTH DAY NETWORK

  • Earth Day Network focuses on changing the human attitude towards the use of plastics and catalyzing a significant reduction in plastic pollution.
  • The organization launched environmental and climate literacy drive as a part of EDN’s Earth Day 2017 March, it generated more than 1.3 million views through Buzzfeed, Facebook, and other sites. The overall reach of the event was in the tune of 100s of millions and included C-SPAN with an audience of 47 million from CNN-International, Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Associated Press, Reuters, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, among others.
  • Between May 2018 and August 2019, Earth Day Network spent a total of $2,178 on advertising with $0 of that money being spent between 11th and 17th August 2019.


RESEARCH STRATEGY

An extensive search of the public domain revealed no news articles about how much the companies spent on advertising on anti-plastic campaigns because the organizations have not explicitly mentioned information about their spending on awareness campaigns or initiatives. Alternatively, the overall figure and expenses of the organization have been publicly disclosed in the annual report and filings of the company.

STRATEGY 1:
We started with the research by looking at the official websites, financial statements, and annual reports of the organizations. Since such information regarding their expenses is best covered in the official sources of information, we preferred to look at them as prima facia. Alternatively, the financial statements and annual reports mentioned the overall expenses by the organizations, but nothing specific to the anti-plastic campaign was found.

STRATEGY 2:
Next, we looked at the social media profiles, news articles, and press releases in sources like PRNewswire, Facebook Ads Library, and ProPublica. We tried to identify any information disclosed by the organization regarding its spend on advertisement. The sources mentioned information regarding companies' expenses and revenues. Thus, we were able to find how much some companies spent on advertising and promotion between May 2018-August, 2019. But the advertising campaigns specific to anti-plastic campaigns or initiatives were not mentioned for the year 2017 and 2018.

STRATEGY 3:
As there was no pre-compiled information available, we tried to triangulate the campaign spending for anti-plastic awareness drives. We looked at the annual reports of the respective organizations and then tried to utilize the percent spending of the programs to triangulate the total spending on anti-plastic campaigns. We found only broader headers that provided the details about their total campaign spending, like Heal The Bay has spent on $22,506 on advertising and promotion in the year 2018; with no further percentage given for anti-plastic advertising. Additionally, NRDC spent $6,062,004 on public affairs and advertising in total for the year 2017-18. Thus, this triangulation strategy didn’t yield any result.

STRATEGY 4:
Next, we looked at the programs initiated by the organization for anti-plastic campaigns like Bellingham Polystyrene Ordinance, Polystyrene Ban & Utensils Only Upon Request in Los Angeles, Throw-Away-Free-Places, and Throw-Away-Free-Communities operated by Surfrider Foundation and Upstream. The idea was to check the donations specifically for this program so that the same can be used as a proxy to estimate the spending by the organization. Though donor name along with donations amount were mentioned in the annual report, but how much has been specifically donated for a particular cause of anti-plastic campaigns were not clearly mentioned. Thus, the further results could not be defined.

STRATEGY 5:
Later, we expanded our search and looked for the expenses of the organization on anti-plastic advertising and advocacy beyond two years so that the same figures can be used to check whether the same amount has been used every year or not. We looked at the archived websites of the company along with news articles like AB News, PRNewswire, and New York Times. We found no details about the advertising spend on anti-plastic campaigns. Thus, the information was not fruitful to derive further results.

WHAT INFORMATION WAS AVAILABLE?

We were able to find the total advertising spend from May 2018 to August 2019 for the listed organizations.

WHAT INFORMATION WAS NOT AVAILABLE?

We were not able to find information specific to companies spending on advocating and advertising anti-plastic campaigns or initiatives.

Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "The Surfrider Foundation is a community of everyday people who passionately protect our playground - the ocean, waves, and beaches -that provide us so much enjoyment."
Quotes
  • "Spend on ads about social issues, elections or politics (May 2018 - Aug 17, 2019) - $8,568 Recent Spend on ads about social issues, elections or politics - $118"
Quotes
  • "Bellingham Polystyrene Ordinance, Norwalk: says NO to single-use bags, and Polystyrene Ban & Utensils Only Upon Request in Los Angeles are some of the campaigns on anti-plastic"