To create a long-lasting impact on plastic production, use and disposal, we need to see changes to the law. In August, eXXpedition ambassadors Sandra Squire, Morgan Goodman, Catherine Cieczko and Juliet Carvalhal led a SHiFT Community Hub event to share their experiences of working in policy and their advice for creating change.

This is part of a series of events led by members of our community for members of our community in our SHiFT Community Hub. 

Agenda Setting

When you first set out to change policy – and by policy we mean legal structures like bans, taxes and legal restrictions – you need to work out what you are going to focus your energy on. It can sometimes be tricky to know what to tackle first. Our ambassadors highlighted lots of important considerations that you should take into account when you are working out where to target your efforts.

– Look at policies that have recently been passed on a local, national or global stage. Policies tend to come in waves. Something that has already been implemented somewhere else might be easier to get traction with your policymakers because they are already aware of it.
– Think about your strengths, expertise and your knowledge areas. How can you utilise your specific experience or contacts to put together the best proposal for change?
– Speak to local stakeholders to get as much information about what they want and also what is going to be feasible to be implemented. Juliet gave an example of how small businesses were particularly concerned about the impact of the plastic bag ban in Aruba, but they then came up with some of the practical aspects that we were able to incorporate into the design as part of the solution.
– Be realistic about what can be achieved and the timeline for it. There was some conversation about knowing the timing of your pitch to local representatives. The two times that were highlighted were before an election when they are looking for policies to campaign for and just after representatives take office when they are enthusiastic and looking to create change.

Policy Design

After deciding the specific area you are going to focus on taking into account the current policy landscape, the political appetite for your policy and the input of local stakeholders, it’s time to really delve into the details.

– Who are you going to work with on this policy? Morgan suggests building a coalition of organisations and groups who all want to work towards the same goal, even if they have different reasons behind their efforts. Sandra agreed and talked about the power of being able to talk about saving money through implementation of policies, as well as the reduction of environmental impact.
– Gather your evidence to support the need for the policy and the benefits of implementation. Provide reports from reliable sources that can’t be dismissed. It was highlighted that sometimes you are in a political climate that is not open to change – utilise the time while you wait for more receptive leadership to bring together the evidence you need so you are ready to go when the time is right.
– Designing implementation needs to involve the stakeholders that you are already in contact with from the agenda setting stage. Engaging them in this process will usually give rise to policies that are more likely to create change and unlikely to hit unexpected sticking points later down the road.
– In a related point, Sandra highlighted the importance of fully researching alternative solutions to make sure they aren’t as bad or worse than the current system. It is easy in the haste of trying to remove one problem, to implement a system that has other challenges or creates a great impact. Avoid this by doing your research.

Communication, Awareness and Implementation

So now you know what you are going to tackle and you’ve designed your policy, how are you going to tell everyone about it – both before and after implementation?

– Before you start, you need to know who you are talking to. Cat shared that she does a mind-mapping exercise to make sure she has all the stakeholders in mind and how best to communicate with them.
– It can be very valuable to include some of the stakeholders on a deeper level by outsourcing some of the legwork or by collaborating. Juliet had a great example of this in Aruba where a key local partner created My Bag is Reusable branded bags (the official awareness campaign logo) along with their own logo and spent the three months distributing these reusable bags to locals and arriving tourists .
– Keeping your communication tied to local impacts makes your messaging more powerful, raises Sandra. People find it easier to relate to things that are happening in their local environment than the global context.

More about our panellists

Morgan Goodman has degrees in Marine Biology and Environmental and Natural Resource Policy. She is passionate about the ocean and protecting the world’s biodiversity and beauty for generations to come. Morgan is a Pollution Prevention Specialist with experience facilitating environmental programs within Federal and State government agencies. She uses effective communication and collaboration to help individuals and companies understand the importance of protecting the environment and empower them to incorporate actions that will have positive environmental impacts. Morgan has also run for House of Delegates twice and has mentored other women that have run for office.  

Catherine Cieczko is a former journalist and has been working for the last 25 years for the European Union, as a communications and stakeholder relations specialist in various sectors. Lately she has specialised in rail transport, always keeping a focus on the EU’s goal to become the first climate neutral continent in the world. 

A keen sailor, she has seen the fast decline of the sea water quality and has been fortunate to join the eXXpedition virtual voyage in Tonga where she could deepen her knowledge on problems and solutions with a group of motivated like minded crew members. 

Her next professional challenge will be to support the rail sector to manage its technological conversion towards the greenest and most efficient transport mode for passengers and freight in Europe.

Juliet Carvalhal is founder and director of Impact Blue Foundation. With her background in both the private and public sectors, she created and co-developed Aruba’s plastic bag ban, since preventing 90 million single-use plastic bags from entering our environment and oceans. Since then, she has co-designed another two policies to curb single-use plastics in Aruba and Sint Maarten, and conducted two scientific studies on topic. In 2019, she was crew member on leg 4 of eXXpedition with the aim to learn the science to launch a 2-year citizen science program on Aruba to inform the next policy design. All her endeavors are based on circularity.

Sandra Squire has been a local politician for 6 years at Borough & County level and has influenced many local environmental policies, especially the reduction in plastics at the local County Council. Notably by stopping the use of 100,000 single use cups in council buildings.

It was when she took part in a leg of the 2017-18 Clipper Round The Yacht Race and saw the levels of plastic in the ocean, that Sandra took that knowledge and passion back to her councils, determined to change things from the inside and encourage the councils to influence the wider area. 

Sandra took part in the Leg 7 Caribbean Virtual Voyage as she sailed from St Lucia to Jamaica in 2020 and was again struck by the amount of plastic in the ocean.

More about SHiFT Hub Events

eXXpedition runs regular events for our community and beyond. Keep an eye on our social channels for updates on upcoming public events, and browse our blog to find out the highlights of our community events and keep up with eXXpedition news.

Thank you to 11th Hour Racing who are supporting this work.