In 2014 sustainability in packaging will make serious progress. 2014 should be a fascinating year for sharing best practices in packaging with our customers and for seeing our customers share internally and externally themselves.
What do I mean by that? Beyond simple changes in process, I see much greater sharing of knowledge leading to improved sustainability in packaging.
Egged on by certain large retailers and by the opportunity to improve their performance, major companies have been using LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) and carbon footprint processes to evaluatee the process of making individual products. Now even water gets measured. There are many groups, including non-profits like GreenBlue or the Courtauld Commitment, ready to support companies who need to evaluate how green and sustainable their products are to make and dispose of, how to reduce waste. Cradle to Grave and Cradle to Cradle they call it.
Typically this is applied by evaluating the renewability of the source of raw materials, then to the cost in energy, water, etc to manufacture through to the cost to dispose of the remains of the product once it is used or consumed. In our business, we see that as packaging reduction, but it can be food waste reduction or recycling of products.
While evaluation and improvement is critical, where companies are using them to cut costs it has been specific and targeted. As companies do more reporting of their sustainability though in the form of annual reports, they are collecting the information of what is done in many places into one report.
This enables sharing of best practices. Between groups like the Packaging Sustainability Council, Ameripen and Europen, the word is getting out. More importantly companies are sharing internally what works across borders and products.
At Package Machinery, we were recently approached by a global food company who wanted to replicate in the US a packaging process on a domestic brand that had found successfully applied in Europe to another brand. That came hard on the heels of another global food company changing their packaging process, where they first tested it in the Middle East.
I have the pleasure of sitting on the Massachusetts board of The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy prides itself on applying science based evidence to global problems. I have seen learnings from West Coast fisheries applied in New England and local knowledge shared widely TNC prides itself on working with lots of local groups to achieve their goals. Some times it is an actual practice but just as often it is a process – a way of working with people or way of doing something that can be adjusted to a different place and new people.
It is fascinating to me to see major global companies adopting the same techniques – of sharing knowledge internal and externally. Equally interesting is to leaner from them and to help them with our own knowledge.
In 2014, we see much interest in our bundling machinery to reduce cardboard usage, which thrills us. More importantly, we see many more companies doing the right thing and for the very good reason that it is good for the company, the consumer and the world.