Ten years ago (yes, this blog has been around for a long time, especially in internet years), we picked up on a great article by SupplyChainBrain on Ten Steps to Green Packaging in the CPG Industry which was a great article not just because it demonstrated just how many ways there were to make packaging green, but because it gave us so many ideas on how to make our entire supply chain green.
In brief, the ten steps were:
Purchase raw materials from suppliers who employ sustainable resource management practices.
- Re-use (Re-explore)
Use recyclable material.
Use ergonomic design and optimization to minimize the use, and size, of packaging material.
Replace hazardous and harmful substances with eco-friendly materials.
Use renewable materials whenever possible.
Inspect, monitor, and control waste in the packaging process.
Immediately recall harmful packaging and put processes in place end harmful packaging.
Collaborate with retailers and collect reusable and recyclable packaging materials.
Set up a Centre of Excellence (COE) to disseminate environmental best practices.
Sign up for a carbon reduction commitment initiative and follow-through.
And they are globally applicable.
Regardless of what you are buying, you want a supplier who is focussed on sustainability.
- Re-use (Re-explore)
Modern science has advanced us to a point where most materials are reusable and recoverable. You should be working to get to 90% re-used/recycled/replenished content within a decade.
Modern structural analytic techniques (especially with the low-cost availability of high-powered computing, low-power cores, and the ability to host data centers in naturally cooled environments) allow for the usage of much less material than before, without compromising any structural integrity
There is no need for hazardous materials in the majority of products on the market today. Science has delivered us alternatives.
Non-renewable materials are becoming limited. It’s not just a cost or green consideration anymore, it’s becoming a necessity.
Waste should be minimized inside your organization and eliminated in your supply chain. Waste to you can be raw material to someone else. Food stuffs don’t meet your level of quality for human consumption? Might more than surpass the level of quality for animal consumption and, if not, there’s always bio-mass energy production. Metal scraps? Straight to smelting and recycling. And so on. Your waste can always be someone else’s inputs if you are smart about your process.
Whatever you are creating should be benefiting the consumer, not harming them. If you screw up, recall the product, immediately fix or recycle it, and improve your processes so it doesn’t happen again. (Don’t reprimand the workers, but fire the pointy haired idiot who requested it or was responsible for guiding the workers. And yes, SI still disdains the average Master of Bullshit Administration.)
Make all of your packaging reusable and get it back. (Considering how many empty miles exist in the trucking industry, this is not a big deal or big cost if properly planned. Coupa Sourcing Optimization and Jaggaer One Advanced Sourcing Optimization in particular have models customized for transportation and reverse transportation. USE THEM!)
… and mandate! Set up the COE, make an executive mandate that policies must be followed, and green your operation.
Make a public commitment to carbon reduction, waste reduction, and energy usage reduction, measure annually, publicly report, and follow-through. (And don’t just buy carbon credits or carbon offsets. Don’t make your problem someone else’s.)
Sustainability isn’t hard anymore … and the organizations that start now will be the ones that will be around in the decades ahead.