Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, packaging manufacturers and retailers have taken a giant stride towards a circular economy with investments in green packaging. Consumers’ preferences for sustainable packaging and the repercussions of plastics on the environment have prompted governing bodies to look beyond plastic bans.
Spain introduced Plastic Tax (a special tax on non-reusable plastic packaging) by Law 7/2022 to promote a circular economy and manage waste and contaminated soil; the law came into force on January 1, 2023. In August 2021, the Whitehouse introduced REDUCE (Rewarding Efforts to Decrease Unrecycled Contaminants in Ecosystems) Act to encourage recycling and impose a USD 0.10 per pound fee on virgin plastic resins used for the single-use product, rising up to USD 0.20 per pound in 2024.
Learn more about the practices & strategies being implemented by industry participants from the Green Packaging Industry ESG Thematic Report, 2023, published by Astra ESG Solutions
With single-use plastic becoming ubiquitous, the burden on the environment and society has become a grave concern. So much so that green packaging has become synonymous with biodegradability and instrumental in fostering corporate social responsibility. That said, several companies have received the flak for greenshifting—a part of greenwashing wherein brands shift blame from themselves to consumers in a way that would not hold specific companies accountable for the environmental crisis. Several pundits, including Heather Rogers, claimed that Coca-Cola and companies, such as Dixie Cup launched—Keep America Beautiful—aimed at making Americans believe that it was their personal responsibility to keep the environment clean.
Environmental claims are pervasive in Europe, too. The Guardian cited a Changing Markets Foundation report, noting that P&G ‘s Head and Shoulders shampoo bottles—dyed blue—cannot be recycled further, although these products are touted as being made of beach plastic. Meanwhile, P&G stated that the pack was recyclable and is no longer available in the U.K. While consumer protection laws are in place, better ESG performance has become invaluable for brands to avoid landfills and bolster share value.
Key Companies in this theme
• Sealed Air
• DS Smith
Amcor Invests in Responsible Packaging to Enhance Environmental Profile
Sustainable packaging solutions have received global traction to facilitate a circular economy. Recycled-ready products can be the mainstay for brands striving to keep abreast of ESG trends. For instance, Amcor is gearing up for 30% recycled material across its portfolio by 2030, up from the previous target of 10% by 2025. In January 2022, the company committed to establishing science-based targets and attaining net-zero emissions by 2050. It is contemplating augmenting recycling value for PET Thermoformed Trays; boosting value in PET recycling; using on-pack recycling instruction; minimizing virgin plastic use in B2B plastic packaging; and bolstering recycling value in rigid HDPE and PP.
Amcor has forayed its penetration in Latin America to ramp up “inclusive and economically viable recycled projects.” It joined forces with Delterra in Olavarría, Argentina to fund the project boosting recycling, waste collection and composting. Olavarría could recover 2,000 metric tons of plastic annually by 2024. It is worth mentioning that the brand is poised to make all packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. In FY 2022, Amcor Flexibles Latin America teamed up with a customer to create an innovative compostable packaging solution for paper-made butter and margarine.
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Mondi Navigates Social Initiatives to Enhance Sustainability Solutions
The need for positive social practices has prompted industry players to inject funds into diversity, health & well-being, and community welfare and play a part in overcoming sustainability challenges. Mondi expanded its footprint in Africa through investments in corporate social projects and offering sustainability training opportunities in South Africa. Besides, in 2022, it poured €8.9 million (approximately USD 9.8 million) into social initiatives to underpin environmental protection, health, education, infrastructure and local enterprise. Amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the packaging and paper group donated €2 million (roughly USD 2.2 million) to the World Food Program for humanitarian causes.
Mondi furthered personal development opportunities, mental health and diversity and inclusion. The company tested Mental Wellbeing Index for employee surveys across different locations to emphasize safety, mental health, inclusive behavior and climate action. Additionally, in 2022, approximately 31% of all employees participated in the online Performance and Development Review Process.
DS Smith Reinforces Good Corporate Governance
The principles of sound corporate behavior, board diversity, transparency, ethics & compliance and anti-corruption have become paramount to underscore brand position. DS Smith is aiming to engage 100% of its people on the circular economy and is optimistic about removing 1 billion pieces of problem plastics from supermarkets by 2025. Bullish corporate policies could complement buoyant strategies to achieve the target and spearhead the ESG rankings. The company has formed a circular business around sustainable packaging.
The prevalence of bottlenecks, such as bribery and corruption, has compelled DS Smith to introduce strict anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies. The company has exhorted a zero-tolerance approach to bribery and corruption and urged to conduct third-party background checks by reviewing third-party’s likely business partners; and the payment terms, among others. The company also prepares a companion report, along with the sustainability report annually, to provide a deep-dive into the quantitative detail of ESG and sustainability performance across non-financial indicators.
At a time when sustainable packaging could bring a green revolution, forward-looking companies are expected to inject funds into ESG strategies. For instance, in March 2023, DuPont joined forces with the members of the Water Resilience Coalition to infuse USD 3 million to boost access to safe water and sanitation. The high-impact investment validates Grand View Research’s projection of the global green packaging market at 6.1% CAGR from 2020 through 2028.
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