Elopak on sustainability21 July 2020
Elopak released their annual report on sustainability at the beginning of July. Matthew Rogerson reached out to Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Verhelst to learn more about the report, its findings and how the company is balancing delivering its social responsibility strategy in the time of coronavirus.
What impact has the pandemic had on Elopak’s supply chain? Have there been changes made to allow continuation of service or have you continued to operate without any issues?
The Covid-19 pandemic has created challenges the world over. Through this difficult time, we have been primarily focused on supporting our staff and customers, providing a safe and reliable service with social distancing measures in place.
One of the first actions we took early on was to initiate a systematic risk evaluation on a daily basis. Anyone who could work from home did and still does. Measures are evaluated, reinforced and adapted when needed depending on new insights. A further addition is e.g. the implementation of temperature control for visitors entering our plants. After a successful pilot, the solution is now being rolled-out.
The major impact for the industry has been that consumption and hence consequential demand for packaging supply became very volatile and unpredictable over a period of time. As a result, it has not simply been a case of maintaining operations at this time, but actually stepping up a gear. Strong working relationships and intense collaboration with customers and suppliers across the supply chain have been essential in ensuring we can quickly adapt and respond to the changing situation.
We continue to prioritize the safety of our colleagues, as well as ensuring that the production and transportation of our cartons meets the highest hygiene standards so that they arrive safely at their destination.
What impact has the crisis had on the sustainability agenda? Has it changed, postponed delayed or altered it in any way?
We believe the sustainability agenda is here to stay. Consumers are demanding sustainability. It is no longer the case that companies see the choice as profitability versus sustainability.
In many ways the pandemic is driving increased awareness of our interconnectivity with the planet and its impact on our daily lives. Whether you’re talking about pandemics or climate change we are seeing a heightened appreciation of the need to take greater action to protect the planet. Against this backdrop we expect to see a continued rise in the importance of sustainability as a driver of consumer behaviour.
In the packaging industry this is reflected in the uptake of more sustainable options. For example, Elopak’s Natural Brown Board packaging has proved particularly popular with our customers looking for a packaging solution that instantly signals their commitment to the environment. These cartons are renewable, recyclable and have a lower CO2 footprint. Their rustic, natural look effectively communicates this commitment to sustainability and instantly stands out on the shelves.
What are Elopak’s sustainability goals, how long have they been in development and what are the timeframes for their achievement?
Elopak’s sustainability goals are geared towards combating climate change and driving a low carbon circular economy as part of our obligation to leave behind a better world for the next generation.
Being sustainable is at our core and has been incorporated into every aspect of our operations for some time, from the development of new systems and materials to the way we power our factories. As a result of this approach Elopak has already recorded significant achievements in the space such as the reduction of emissions by 70 per cent between 2008 and 2018.
We are now focused on taking this to the next level and the targets we are currently working towards cover three main areas: social impact, environmental impact and the circular economy.
When it comes to social impact Elopak is working towards the same distribution in gender diversity across all hierarchical levels and zero lost time due to injuries.
Examples of Elopak’s environmental targets include a 55 per cent reduction of direct emissions and a 16 per cent reduction in emissions across the value chain by 2030, as well as 100 per cent renewable materials available in all beverage cartons.
In terms of the circular economy we are targeting 100 per cent recyclable beverage cartons in all markets by 2025 and a 70 per cent recycling rate of beverage cartons in the EU and Canada by 2025.
The timeframe for each of these commitments varies depending on the extent of the challenge, and in some cases these are determined by third-party initiatives or associations. As many objectives are set in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, these have a deadline of 2030 or earlier.
Is there a priority or major focus within sustainability or is everything equally important?
At Elopak we seek to operate at the juncture of people, planet and profit. We believe it is important to address each of these as part of the whole because maintaining healthy growth without exploiting natural or human resources is essential.
In terms of planet we look to protect natural resources by sourcing renewable raw materials through sustainable supply chains, continuously reducing and offsetting neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions, and by ensuring recycling of materials.
When it comes to people Elopak’s objectives encompass employment, health and safety, and ethical and social considerations, not only within the company but throughout the supply chain.
For Elopak profit is about ensuring long term financial viability and contributing to society by creating interesting and safe jobs, as well as contributing towards the sale of safe and healthy foods.
What is the latest sustainability development by the company? Latest innovations in sustainability?
In 2019 Elopak was one of 87 companies, and the first packaging company, to lead the way in helping to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C at the UN Climate Action Summit. As a result, Elopak made some very specific commitments in terms of the company’s future environmental performance, including a 55 per cent reduction of direct emissions and a 16 per cent reduction in emissions across the value chain by 2030, working from a 2017 baseline.
In June 2020 Elopak launched its most environmentally friendly carton yet - the Pure-Pak® Imagine. It is fully renewable, recyclable and carbon neutral. It has no plastic screw cap, resulting in 46 per cent less plastic, and is 100 per cent forest based, made from Natural Brown Board with a barrier that is made from wood-based renewable materials.
The 2019 Sustainability Report records a number of recent achievements including the completion of PureEthics training on ethical business conduct by 1,000 employees, the avoidance of 12,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable plastics, a 25 per cent increase in R&D spending since 2017, the offsetting of 200,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent since 2016, and the sourcing of 100 per cent renewable electricity since 2016.
How far out do you plan and how do you metric success?
Success is about meeting our targets and we are committed to reporting against these on an annual basis.
For transparency and comparability, we have published our key environmental data since 2008. This data originates from Elopak’s internal reporting system, Footprinter, collated from production, administration and sales units worldwide. Our environmental data shows the development of Elopak’s environmental impact each year, as prescribed in the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, including the updated revisions of the GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance (2015). Our 2019 data has been audited and verified by SGS in 2020.
We are constantly challenging ourselves to get better and set new goals.