The practice of sustainability appears to be evolving into a holistic, science-based effort that extends far beyond the environment to include health and wellness and social responsibility as well as economics.
Increasingly, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies like Reckitt Benckiser, Slough, UK; Diageo, London, UK; Sara Lee, Downers Grove, IL; and Procter & Gamble (P&G), Cincinnati, OH, look beyond their own four walls to examine and quantify the behavior of upstream suppliers and downstream consumers as part of their sustainability initiatives.
Sara Lee’s 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report explains why: “Our life cycle analysis (LCA) work has shown us that we directly control only a small portion of our footprint in the world. Working with our external partners is therefore critical to improving our overall sustainability.”
Becoming more sustainable typically involves internally developed and externally available tools to compare options and identify the most sustainable choice.
During a September 13, 2011, webinar, Sustainability at Procter & Gamble (P&G), speakers described the methodologies the company uses. A pioneer in LCA, P&G has been involved in the development of many other sustainability-enhancing tools. Its Packaging Sustainability Design Toolkit includes:
In addition, P&G has developed a Sustainable Packaging Checklist. It’s used to encourage personnel to consider sustainability and total life cycle during the product development or updating process. Based in Microsoft Excel so engineers don’t need a lot of training to use it, the Checklist consists of a series of simple questions and easy-to-read outputs about energy, recyclability and other influences on sustainability.
P&G Sustainability Goals
Source: Sustainability at Procter & Gamble webinar, September 13, 2011
The COMPASS software developed by SPC and its parent organization, GreenBlue, Charlottesville, VA, provides low-cost LCA-like feedback early in the design process. At the end of the design process, a full LCA, typically performed by a third party, is done if P&G plans to include any sustainability claims on the label.
P&G has started to use the Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability 2.0, a framework and measuring system developed by CPG companies and other stakeholders to provide a common language for discussing and assessing the relative sustainability of packaging (see next article).
P&G also is working to change consumer behavior. Switching from hot/warm water to cold water for laundry generates major energy savings. Keith Fanta, senior scientist, Global PackDev Sustainability at P&G, told the webinar audience: “If all U.S. households did their laundry in cold water, it would save 70-90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and eliminate 34 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This represents 8% of the Kyoto target for the United States.”
P&G initiatives fit every environmental option including reusable packaging. Although a pilot project was not successful, P&G is still studying in-store refills. It also has undertaken labeling projects to communicate sustainability information to consumers.
Another area of activity centers on replacing rigid packaging with flexible. Most LCAs give flexible packaging the advantage. “However,” Fanta says, “in many cases, switching to flexible packaging has a big impact on how the consumer interacts with the product and recyclability. Flexible packaging scores well on source reduction, but not as good on recyclability.” Furthermore, he says, “Consumers like rigid packaging. Consumers want to do the right thing, but are not ready to sacrifice performance or price,” he notes.
Sara Lee Environmental Aspects Table
Minimize; collect and market for use in a secondary market
Discarded packaging and spent materials
Minimize; collect and market to recyclers; return to suppliers
Evaluate efficacy of low-emissions burners for specific equipment and maintain material recovery and air pollution control equipment for dust and other air pollutants. Adopt water-based solvents where possible
Carbon dioxide emissions
Maintain combustion equipment in good working condition; energy efficiency improvements; renewable energy projects; lower emissions burners
Water conservation, non-potable reuse
Storm water runoff
Minimize use; store and transfer hazardous materials in protected areas
Mixed waste and trash
Minimize; segregate materials to identify recycling opportunities
Emergency plans, spill/leak prevention, detection and remediation procedures and equipment
Source: Sara Lee 2011 Sustainability Report
Sara Lee and Diageo rely on some of the same sustainability-enhancing tools P&G uses. In addition, Sara Lee has developed an Environmental Aspects Table to help management minimize impacts.
As an alcoholic beverage company, Diageo spends considerable resources on responsible drinking campaigns. Other achievements include deriving 50% of its energy from low-carbon sources and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Washington, DC, for office buildings in Chicago, IL, and Madrid, Spain. Other CPG companies with LEED-certified facilities include Nestle Waters North America (Nestle Waters NA), Stamford, CT, and Pepsico’s Frito-Lay North America division, Plano, TX.
Diageo 2015 Targets
Source: Diageo Sustainability & Responsibility Report 2011 Summary
Nestle Waters NA, the third largest beverage company in the United States, received LEED certification for its headquarters building in Stamford in September 2011, roughly a year after moving into the renovated structure.
The headquarters facility ranks as the company’s 10th LEED-certified building. Its first LEED certification dates to 2003 when the then-new Nestle Waters NA plant in Stanwood, MI, became one of the first US industrial facilities to meet the USGBC sustainability standard.
Reckitt Benckiser Achievements
Source: Reckitt Benckiser
Since 2003, LEED-certified facilities in Michigan, Texas, Maine, Pennsylvania, Florida, Tennessee and California have helped Nestle Waters NA cut energy use 1.5 million kilowatt hours, carbon emissions 2.1 million pounds and water use 9 million gallons.
Frito-Lay’s facility in Casa Grande, AZ, not only is LEED certified, but also ranks as a “near net zero” facility that minimizes energy usage from nonrenewable sources, conserves water and virtually eliminates landfilled waste. Nearly all of the plant’s energy needs are delivered by solar energy or a biomass boiler. A membrane bioreactor and low-pressure reverse osmosis system recycle 50% to 75% of the water that flows into the plant, while an extensive recycling program and conversion of food waste to cattle feed cuts landfilled waste to less than 1%. For more information, visit www.diageo.com, www.fritolay.com, www.nestle-watersna.com, www.pg.com, www.rb.com, www.saralee.com, www.sustainablepackaging.org, http://globalpackaging.mycgforum.com.Back to Top >
Supplying brand owners with the sustainability data they need poses a challenge for packaging suppliers. Spartech Packaging Technologies, a supplier of rigid packaging in St. Louis, MO, takes a proactive approach. Web-based software from Sustainable Minds, Cambridge, MA, computes carbon footprint; air, land and water emissions; and human health impact data for the 1 billion pounds of polymers it converts into packaging each year.
By the end of 2011, says Jeffrey Best, director of Marketing, Packaging Technologies at Spartech, “…all of our product development and commercialization teams will routinely calculate environmental emissions associated with our products and will discuss the data with our customers. One of our goals is to improve the sustainability of our products without compromising container integrity and performance. We also wanted to use a set of data that is widely adopted across all industries and academia to ensure transparency and impartiality in how the data are calculated.”
Considered one of the most comprehensive databases in the industry, the Sustainable Minds database contains life cycle inventory (LCI) data for approximately 75 thermoplastics, additives and concentrates. If a material is not in the database, Sustainable Minds can compute an LCI based on data for each individual molecule in the polymer. For more information, visit www.spartech.com, www.sustainableminds.com.Back to Top >
The color of Microfoam® Green low-density polypropylene (PP) foam from Pregis, Deerfield, IL, visually communicates the protective packaging material’s environmental benefits. When exposed to ultraviolet light, the one-sixteenth-inch-thick photodegradable foam disintegrates in 44 to 77 hours, according to tests conducted in accordance with ASTM G154-6.
Microfoam PP sheet also requires 40% less resin than polyethylene foam of equivalent thickness and weighs less than small air cushioning of equal square footage. This source reduction not only represents a savings in material, but also reduces shipping costs.
With a high coefficient of friction, the Microfoam material clings to the product being protected and eliminates movement that could abrade surface finishes. A high melt point makes the PP foam suitable for protecting hot products or protecting shrinkwrapped items like furniture. The chemically inert foam won’t cause tarnish or corrosion, and the absence of curing agents eliminates any danger of grease transfer.
Available in roll widths of 24, 36 and 72 inches, applications include cushioning, surface protection, insulation, void fill and interleaving. For more information, visit www.pregis.com.Back to Top >
Survey data in the 2011 Green Gauge® U.S. Report shows Americans are now twice as likely to separate garbage from recyclable materials and buy products made from or packaged in recycled materials than they were in 1990. Approximately three-quarters of those surveyed feel good about taking action that helps the environment. However, financial incentives and penalties (both ranked at 49%) influence green behaviors more strongly than pressure from family, friends and government, according to the survey, undertaken by GfK Roper Consulting, New York, NY, for SC Johnson, Racine, WI.
Respondents also report a bit of a decline in concern about the environment. In fact, nearly 50% of the respondents are more worried about economic security than the environment.
Who should take the lead in addressing environmental issues is less clear-cut with 38% specifying “individual Americans” and 29% putting the responsibility on “business and industry.”
The survey also shows Americans know more about environmental impacts. The number of respondents who say they are very confused about what’s good and what’s bad for the environment dropped to 18% in 2011 from 39% in 1990. For more information, visit www.scjohnson.com/Libraries/Download_Documents/SCJ_and_GfK_Roper_Green_Gauge.sflb.ashx.Back to Top >
Pass It On campaign encourages consumers to recycle food and beverage cans. The promotional effort by the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), Washington, DC, seeks to boost steel and aluminum can recycling rates to new records. In 2010 the U.S. recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans stood at 58%, the highest rate in more than a decade, while steel food can recycling hit 66.8%, an all-time record.
“Can recycling minimizes energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, and decreases the need for virgin material,” reports Robert Budway, president, CMI. Furthermore, he says, “…metal cans can be recycled again and again, forever, without loss of strength or quality.” For more information, visit www.cancentral.com.Back to Top >