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Use of Renewable Materials Should Be Part of Business Solutions for Addressing Climate Change

The biggest impacts will come from macro industrial changes in outputs generated by manufacturing and production operations, and transportation.

Submitted by: Guest Contributor

Posted: Oct 02, 2014 – 03:11 PM EST

Tags: climate change, renewable materials, carbon emissions, packaging, innovation

 
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By Elisabeth Comere, Director, Environment & Government Affairs, Tetra Pak, Inc.

Last week, in conjunction with the UN climate summit, business and government leaders met from around the globe. Their mission: answering the mounting need to address climate change. As noted in the New York Times, “companies are playing a larger role than at any such gathering in the past.” Recognizing the need to tackle addressing climate can lead to economic advantages as well as environmental benefits. 

Major commitments were made by corporations addressing such actions as changes in practices around deforestation, increased use of renewable power, and more. My company is supporting this mobilization of a critical mass of business leaders to recommend and implement climate change policies and solutions through our support of the UN’s Initiative for Business Leadership on Climate Change, Caring for Climate.

We realize that the biggest impacts will come from macro industrial changes in outputs generated by manufacturing and production operations, transportation, and so forth. Toward that end, we are mindful of the need to do our part. Since 2010, we have reduced carbon emissions from our own operations by 2,000 tons CO2e, while achieving 12 percent growth in packaging production. Our goal is to cap our carbon impact at 2010 levels, while still achieving our desired business growth objectives.  We also know that collective efforts are the way forward to positively impact change, and we work with our value chain partners to create the leanest and most resource-efficient value chain, which will in turn deliver climate efficiencies. We also know that carbon emission reduction can happen in less-obvious places that may not be as top of mind.

For example, as the dialogue around climate progresses, and we identify climate action solutions, those of us in business should take note of our raw materials inputs as well as our outputs. In this regard, elements of the circular economy model are instructive. We can rely less on supply derived from diminishing natural resources and instead create resiliency through use of sustainable, renewable materials that can be regrown or restored naturally over time.  Not only does this help ensure a predictable raw material supply (which contributes to predictable production and business growth), but it also ensures a predictable (and lower) impact on the climate—using paperboard from trees that are responsibly harvested, for instance,  helps preserve forests which help combat the earth’s carbon imbalance.

Packaging has a key role to play in conservation and helping mitigate global warming impacts. For instance, when packaging is designed using the minimum amount of resources possible, incorporating renewable materials, the carbon impact throughout its life cycle will improve. Look at a typical Tetra Pak carton: 75 percent of a package’s weight is paperboard sourced from responsibly managed forests. Even though the renewable materials compromise the bulk of the package, they contribute only 20 percent of the package’s overall carbon impact. Our ambition is to have a package made of 100 percent renewable materials, in line with our commitment to help preserve natural resources for future generations while further minimizing climate impact.

Use of renewable materials like paperboard made from trees or bioplastics made from sugar cane means less reliance on materials from non-renewable sources, and that in turn also helps curb emissions. Many companies are moving forward in this direction. Cosmetics company Shishedo has the ambition to replace 50 percent of petroleum-based materials with renewable materials in products by 2020. For Proctor & Gamble, that ambition is 25 percent by 2020. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Danone have stated similar ambitious targets for their use of green polymers in their packaging.  And at Tetra Pak, we’re leveraging bio-based plastics in packaging for all customers in the Brazilian market.

When we begin in the right way, the environmental benefits from an efficient renewable package can flow throughout the life cycle and we build on improvements and innovations with the lowest climate impact. While solutions addressing climate change have been integral to so many of our businesses, we understand that being a sustainable company is not enough and increasingly we all will need to strive for a sustainable value chain. 

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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