May 21, 2019 - GreenBiz
APR in the News
4 reasons businesses should set sustainable packaging goals
It seems that nearly every day there is a new headline about companies setting ambitious sustainable packaging goals in areas such as recycled content, responsible sourcing and recyclability.
Momentum around sustainable packaging is at an all-time high, and companies are taking action to get ahead of regulations, respond to public outcry over ocean plastic pollution, sign on to global commitments such as the New Plastics Economy and set their own company-level sustainability agenda for the coming decade. In many cases, the deluge of goals is an effort to revise past commitments, which were either unrealized or not ambitious enough to respond to heightened marketplace demands for packaging sustainability.
While doing research for its newly released Goals Database, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) found that 86 percent of the close to 100 companies surveyed have either concrete goals or statements of support that address one or more concepts in sustainable packaging.
It’s critical to ground ourselves and ask: Why should companies create sustainability goals? There are a host of reasons they should create sustainability goals broadly and sustainable packaging goals specifically. Those range from economic motivators to social and moral drivers. Four of the most important reasons we believe companies should set goals:
1. To get ahead of regulation: Setting and working toward sustainable packaging goals is a great way of setting your company up to meet or exceed regulations. In the European Union, companies must comply with ample legislation around packaging. Canada has many provincial-level legislative requirements. In the United States, while a few states are using policy to impact change in packaging, we see a greater presence of cities and municipalities using regulation.
2. To be proactive against reputational risk and losing social license: This is a large component of why companies should and do craft sustainable packaging goals. For example, if you know activists target companies on deforestation issues, it serves you well to be able to say that you have a goal for responsible fiber sourcing to help demonstrate your commitment to preventing deforestation and removing deforestation from your supply chain. Alternatively, if you know that perceptions around single-use plastics are coming to a boil, it’s valuable to say that your company has been voluntarily working on ways to improve plastic packaging in the form of a corporate commitment.
3. To anticipate market changes: Sustainability is now mainstream, driven by millennials and younger generations that are gaining purchasing power. In the most recent Deloitte Millennials survey, almost 40 percent of respondents stated that the goal of business should be to "improve society" (second only to "generate jobs" in terms of priorities). There’s also more consumer engagement with brands on social media, and more of a demand for transparency, which has a direct impact on packaging. In terms of risk, businesses cannot succeed in a world of environmental, economic and social instability. Companies and some investors today increasingly recognize these risks as threatening supply chains and stable markets for future growth.
4. To do right by the environment: Last, but certainly not least, a critical reason to develop sustainable packaging goals is to save the planet, be ethical and do the right thing for its own sake. There are real threats to business and society in terms of climate change impacts and availability of resources that affect this and, even moreso, future generations. Forward-looking corporations are active corporate citizens, positively affecting the future of the planet.
We believe that companies that set goals are more likely to succeed in achieving sustainability outcomes.
It’s clear that it’s becoming more expected for companies to publicly commit to implementing sustainability broadly and sustainable packaging more specifically. Out of the largest 250 companies in the world, 93 percent report publicly on sustainability and 75 percent of mid- and large-cap companies report publicly on sustainability.