Manufacturers may define sustainability as a reduction in source materials used in their production processes and during the supply chain journey. Consumers may define it by only wanting recyclable materials in the products they buy.
At the 2019 edition of The Packaging Conference, sustainability took the lead in packaging "megatrends" according to an article in Packaging World. David Feber, a partner at McKinsey & Co, noted in his keynote address that “Sustainability has accelerated to the number one issue over the last 12 months. Last year it was number four.” Today, of course, focus has shifted to Covid-19, but it's certain that sustainability will remain a top concern in the future.
As more and more businesses move forward with sustainability initiatives, industry leaders at the conference stressed that the entire narrative of packaging materials must be considered – which includes everything from substrate, the packaging material and the product within the packaging, the supply chain and end-of-life options. An example of why this is important would be reducing primary and secondary packaging to attain source reduction goals, only to see a percentage of product damaged due to load instability…which could ultimately end up in a landfill as unsalable product.
So how can manufacturers be sure that their initiatives take the entire narrative into consideration?
An article in Lantech’s Sustainability Resource Center suggests that the right machine technology can help balance out the trade-offs of source material reduction and load stability. For example, Case Erectors that are more forgiving of inherent irregularities in recycled corrugated cardboard will keep you from discarding previously unusable blanks. And their ability to erect perfectly square cases allows the case to perform to their engineered capability, ensuring your product is protected throughout the supply chain journey.
It would also be beneficial for a specific group of associates or a department to actually “own” the sustainability effort, ensuring that while goals are being met, their impact down the line can be monitored, investigated and modified when necessary. Companies that have dictated segments of their business to these initiatives, such as Sealed Air and Cardinal Health, are making great strides toward positively impacting the entire narrative of sustainability.
Lastly, manufacturers and consumers alike must continually educate themselves on all facets of sustainability. While finding a definitive source of pertinent information may seem daunting, try narrowing your search to outlets that allow for queries, discussion and transparent research. (The Journal of Sustainability Education is a good place to start.)
As manufacturers ourselves, we understand the challenges that can arise when implementing sustainability initiatives. So let’s keep the discussion going – check out our Sustainability Resource Center to learn more about efforts in progress, and what more you can do to reach your sustainability goals.
This post was published on April 22, 2020 and updated on April 22, 2020.