Sustainable Packaging for Reducing Your Footprint

Sustainable packaging to help a circular economy

Sustainable Packaging for Reducing Your Footprint

In an effort to reduce costs and lessen their environmental impact and, thus, carbon footprint, companies are focusing on sustainable packaging.

To make the right choices for sustainability, companies should consider looking at sustainable packaging from a supply chain point of view. And to achieve true sustainability, companies need to digitize their supply chains in order to determine the actual value of different strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle.

The pressure to reduce environmental impact, and reduce costs in general, is forcing companies to take a serious look at the value of sustainable packaging. Indeed, major distributors anticipating future regulation and are already shaking down their supply chains for maximum reduction of their environmental impact.

Wal-Mart, for example, has mandated a reduction of 5 percent in packaging in all categories in 2013 and reduced $ 3 billion in costs from its supply chain. Many other retailers may be able to save 3 to 5 percent of the costs of the supply chain by adopting environmentally friendly packaging, not to mention the continuing increase in the environmentally conscious consumer base.

Successful companies are beginning to use an all-encompassing approach to creating a sustainable supply chain. The magnitude of the change required is overwhelming in many instances. It is very important, then, to systematically weigh and assess the impact and the value of sustainability and sustainable processes all the way from the manufacturer to the end of the life-cycle of a product.

To reduce supply chain costs, companies should start by examining the life-cycle of their products, from raw material suppliers to the manufacturers and distributors all the way down to consumers. Standard supply chains generate packaging waste at every step between the supplier and the consumer. A complete view of the packaging supply chain provides depth of field needed to develop optimal solutions. For example, the recycling of certain packaging materials and the passage to reusable packaging.

One option in achieving a sustainable packaging goal is an effort to reduce or eliminate unique packaging materials. By substituting a backhaul transport leg to return the packaging for reuse, rather than buying new product packaging, an American automotive manufacturer may be able to achieve its goal of zero landfill deposits while at the same time reducing the number of empty returns. Reusable packaging can increase the benefits of these containers since they can then be double or triple stacked in trailers to fill the previously wasted space. Other options are the recycling of pallets and developing an improved stretch film that is used to consolidate pallets, improved inventory planning to find the right balance between stock and transportation costs and better, cleaner use of the goods.

Case studies conducted by the StopWaste Partnership indicate that switching to reusable packaging decreases solid waste by-product by 95 percent and reduces carbon emissions by as much as 29 percent. Sustainable packaging in the supply chain is only one area where companies can reduce their impact on the environment but it is a significant one.

Photo by Vítor Santos on Unsplash

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