21 April 2017
By Scott Byrne, Environment Specialist at Tetra Pak
What can’t be measured can’t be improved. This is true in all aspects of business, including sustainability. The era of companies simply touting their green practices to attract eco-minded consumers has passed – now they must also have the facts and figures to prove their commitment to some of the world’s largest retailers.
 
Walmart was one of the first movers in establishing a sustainability scorecard in 2009. This program required consumer product companies to share details on their carbon footprints, resource use and business practices. At the time, it was estimated that only 10 percent of Walmart’s 100,000 suppliers had the required information at the ready, underscoring the need for brand owners to independently and consistently measure their effect on the environment throughout a product’s life cycle.
 
Since then, other retailers such as Kroger have published bold sustainability goals. And Walmart has deepened its focus on packaging with its first Sustainable Packaging Playbook, developed by The Sustainability Consortium. By creating the need for more transparent data, these retailer efforts have spurred brand owners to themselves create scorecards for their suppliers to enable them to track the impacts of their products. Examples include Procter & Gamble’s 2010 launch of their Suppler Environmental Sustainability Scorecard and the 2014 creation of The Clorox Company’s Supplier Environ
mental Footprint Scorecard.  
 
As retailers’ demand for environmental transparency grows, more packaging sustainability metrics for suppliers are sure to follow. Thus, comparative life cycle analysis is an increasingly important tool for brands to use to stay on the shelf and gain competitive advantage. Failure to do so can result in an uncompetitive sustainability score and removal from store shelves and consumers’ carts.

To maintain favorability with retailers and consumers, brands can measure the following three aspects of their current packaging, and then make incremental improvements:
 
  • Sustainable sourcing – Brands can disrupt the linear take-make-dispose packaging model by paying attention to sourcing at the “take” stage of production. This means ensuring that raw materials used for packaging are renewable and sustainably managed.

    Looking into cartons as a new packaging format and checking that they’re made from Forest Stewardship Council Certified paper is a good place to start. Paper cartons score significantly higher on sustainability scorecards than other package formats because they are 100 percent recyclable and made with a high percentage of sustainably sourced renewable content.
 
  • Design optimization – Big-box retailers care deeply about the size and weight of a package because shedding unnecessary weight or bulk can add up to significant sustainability gains. Walmart’s Scott McCall, senior VP, home & seasonal, illustrates this well in Greener Package: “If we took one inch out of every item [in a supercenter], we’re talking about 120,000 inches. That’s 10,000 feet, almost two miles of packaging reduced in just one supercenter.”
 
  • Recycling support – Recycling rates remain stubbornly low – just eight percent of Americans recycle all of their recyclable waste, according to a 2014 survey by Kelton Global. Brands are uniquely positioned to help make recycling as easy as disposing, fueling a circular economy.
 
These are just three ways brands can boost their retailer sustainability scorecards while sustaining their business and the environment through greener packaging. For more on comparative lifecycle analysis, visit our website.
 
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