World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

Moving to the Front: A Holistic View of Packaging

  • Date: 17 July 2014
  • Author: Brian Kennell, President and CEO, Tetra Pak Inc

Today, leaders in the environmental community and among the world’s largest corporations are setting their goals high and looking at issues of sustainability across supply chains and discovering what advantages might come their way in a circular economy. To these leaders, the days of promoting recycling and holding their efforts up as examples of global environmental leadership are long gone. The fact is, recycling, which addresses the back end of a product’s life cycle, has gone beyond ‘the accepted’ to ‘the expected’ across the world. Still, the world’s migration to recycling practices is a story of unprecedented partnership and leadership, and my company has been proud to be an industry leader in the recycling movement.

But those of us in business fully understand that there are finite physical materials and natural resources available to produce our products. We understand, and are always reliant upon these ecosystems for our business success.

We want to lead a new commitment to what we call renewability – our contribution to the circular economy – protecting natural resources and rewarding best practices and innovations that focus on the front end of the packaging life cycle; practices and innovations that will keep the consumer packaged goods industry strong and viable in an increasingly volatile economy.

Traditionally, sustainable packaging solutions and innovations have focused on the end part of the life cycle—disposal. That’s why recycling has received important attention from us and from others. While recycling is important to reducing our impact, alone, it’s not enough. Despite well-intentioned efforts to preserve the planet, we are depleting the world’s natural resources at an alarming rate, threatening the health of our planet and global commerce.

Without losing an inch of ground around recycling and other commitments to reduce our environmental impact, we must now turn our attention to the front end of the life cycle and how materials are sourced. That’s why Tetra Pak has launched Moving to the Front — a campaign inviting suppliers, manufacturers, brand owners, NGOs, and others to expand attention from the mid and end of the packaging life cycle to the beginning.

“Embracing use of renewable resources is the next logical step in leadership from the packaging and consumer goods industries, which have played a significant role in making recycling — the back end of the life cycle — a mainstream business practice.”

Brian Kennell
President and CEO, Tetra Pak Inc

For our company, Moving to the Front isn’t just an aspirational ideal. We walk the walk. Our cartons, on average, are made of 70 percent paperboard, a renewable resource from responsibly managed forests; we have launched bio- based plastic caps and packaging coating made from polyethylene from sugar cane; and our goal is to offer packages made from 100 percent renewable materials.

There are profound environmental and business benefits when companies embrace renewability and the goals of a circular economy. Consider:

  • You help alleviate pending resource scarcity.
  • You help mitigate changes in climate patterns and enable biodiversity, with increasing use of products from sustainable forests which serve as a carbon sinks and habitats.
  • You protect and secure your long term supply resources;
  • You are better able to manage costs, experience less price volatility and a more reliable supply chain;
  • You are better primed for business growth opportunities because of less business disruption around supply resources;
  • You differentiate your brand and increase brand equity because consumer demand for packaging with renewable content is growing.

Embracing use of renewable resources is the next logical step in leadership from the packaging and consumer goods industries, which have played a significant role in making recycling — the back end of the life cycle — a mainstream business practice.

We need to do more and I invite you to help us:

  • Educate our industry, customers, and consumers around the importance of renewability
  • Challenge everyone to deploy and or/ help develop a new order of best practices and standards that is worthy of industry leaders in the renewability space.
  • Advocate for broad acceptance of renewability practices that ensure the security of our industry and the sustainability of natural resources that we – and everyone in the world – must protect for future generations.

In conjunction with the launch of our new campaign, we have authored a white paper, with input from WWF, What is Renewability In Packaging, And Why Should We Care?, which articulates our point of view in detail. You can download and read the paper here. Support our campaign, join the conversation, and Move to the Front.


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