The German-based company, a major supplier to the dairy industry, has underlined its green credentials after meeting the exacting criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) - a leading global environmental initiative - that verifies all the wood fibres used in its aseptic carton packs produced in Europe are fully traceable. The company has been awarded complete chain of custody (CoC) verification and become one of the first firms in Europe to market aseptic cartons bearing the FSC Mix label.
Complete supply chain
This charter mark confirms that all the wood fibres – which make up 75 per cent of the container content - are traceable "without interruption along the entire value-added chain from the labelled carton pack to the forest of origin", said SIG. This means the company demands all its suppliers of unprocessed cartonboard operate production facilities that are certified according to the FSC CoC standard.
"This ensures that, for the manufacture of the unprocessed cartonboard, controversial wood sources can be avoided, traceability of the wood fibres back to the forest of origin is guaranteed and only wood from controlled sources or ecologically well-managed forests is used," said the company.
The integrity of the initiative is ensured by a rigorous FSC checklist consisting of ten mandatory principles and 56 criteria for good forestry. A consistent use of the chain of custody code in all sale documents and labels ensures that FSC certified materials can be tracked back through the production process to the respective suppliers, which allows traceability of FSC products through the production chain. Compliance with the principles and criteria by the certified companies is checked on an ongoing basis by independent certification organisations, and the outcomes reported back to the FSC, Michael Hecker, head of group Environment, health and safety at SIG, told FoodProductionDaily.com.
He added that one of the challenges lay in meeting the increased market demand for environmentally responsible production with an initiative that is easily understood by retailers and consumers and from a source that is relatively scarce.
Hecker said that while FSC certification was widely regarded as one of the most important global forestry management initiatives of the last decade, the supply of wood was limited because only five per cent of forests world-wide were recognised under criteria laid down by the scheme.
"Food processing companies and retailers also want to position themselves with responsibly sourced products and the corresponding packaging – and minimize risks at the same time,“ he said.
Another test was overcoming the practical and logistical challenges in putting the initiative into practice.
"A real challenge was the fast execution of the extensive activity plan in all European production sites. First we had to familiarise ourselves with the requirements of this comprehensive process and we had a vivid exchange of information," said Hecker. "We had to identify the roles and responsibilities of those involved along the entire value chain. Absolutely essential was internal training for all involved departments throughout the company."
However, SIG is convinced of not just the environmental benefits FSC compliance brings, but also the commercial ones.
"The FSC label provides the link between responsible production and consumption and thereby enables the consumer to make socially and environmentally responsible purchasing decisions," said Hecker.
Certification from a renowned third party such as FSC means the company’s "customers and retailers are able to underline their environmental responsibility with carton packs from SIG Combibloc", he added.
"FSC creates value at the point of sales. Consumer awareness and consideration in decision process is constantly growing. Therefore retailers forces differentiation by positive environmental profile and demand for environmental statements on the packaging; food processing companies can strengthen their brand by showing and underlining environmental responsibility."
The company said the FSC CoC certification of it European sites was a milestone on the road to certifying 100 per cent of its global operations.
Hecker concluded: “For us, sustainability means for the future, too, pursuing ambitious environmental goals that lay the foundations for the long-term success of the company”.