New global guidelines on packaging sustainability will help companies reduce their carbon footprint while boosting efficiency and spur more effective communication between players throughout the supply chain, said Unilever’s Nigel Bagley.
The director of industry relations for the multinational giant delivered his assessment as the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) released its Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability (GPPS).
The guide was designed by a broad group of retailers and brand owners, in conjunction with packaging suppliers and manufacturers. The steering group included representatives from industry leaders such as Nestle, Unilever, Walmart, Tesco, Kraft and Proctor & Gamble.
The comprehensive document, targeted at the packaging and consumer goods industries, aims to provide a “common language” to help them cut the environmental footprint of their packing, said the CGF, a global industry alliance made up of over 650 leading companies from the packaging, retail and consumer good sectors.
The body added that the agreed definitions and metrics set out in the protocol would make it easier for businesses to tackle a range of commercial questions about packaging sustainability - either in-house or between their partners in the value chain.
The 74-page guide sets out a framework to outline and assess the relative sustainability of packaging, said the CGF.
It outlines a choice of indicators to take into account for making business decisions. These include life-cycle phases, the level at which an indicator could be used and at what part in the business. The report also examines the use of life-cycle assessments in product development, availability of data, types of packaging, as well as economic, social and environmental metrics.
Benefits to industry
Unilever’s Bagley said the protocol introduced harmony and simplicity to a hugely complicated issue that would allow companies to focus more keenly on improving operational efficiencies.
“This is a really significant project because a common language means it’s easier to communicate with our trading partners,” he added. “And less time spent having to agree definitions and filling in such things as sustainability scorecards, means we can focus on bringing benefits to the value chain.”
The standardised terminology and metrics also made it easy to operate in multiple languages and avoid duplication of effort, said the industry relations chief.
“The common language avoids duplication of effort in trying to make sure the definitions with use with French retailers are identical to those with German ones,” said Bagley giving just one example. “We avoid repetition and increase simplification and harmonisation. This improves efficiency and allows us to focus on other things.”
While the CGF is developing a number of other projects on sustainability, packaging was seen as the vital starting point, he said.
“Packaging is spearheading the movement towards a number of other carbon strategies,” Bagley added. “Packaging is something we could put our arms around and now we are working on other partnership projects.”
The European Organization for Packaging and the Environment (Europen) welcomed the publication of the protocol.
"As the European organization representing the major players in the packaging value chain on packaging and environment issues, Europen welcomes the release of the Protocol and will encourage all our members to embrace it and use it in their efforts to achieve their business sustainability goals," said the industry body's managing director Julian Carroll. "Optimal packaging solutions, developed with the aid of the Protocol, can make a substantial contribution to more sustainable consumer products."
To read a full copy of the Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability click HERE