Stepping up on the SDGs

Today is Global Goals Day. Amid some of the most challenging economic circumstances of modern times and in parallel with the 75th UN General Assembly there is a chance to reflect on how we can accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and consider our role in driving and innovating solutions that support a better and more sustainable future for all.

2020 marks five years since the adoption of the SDGs, and ten years until the deadline for their achievement. In many respects, awareness of the importance of sustainability has never been higher than it is today, but it is also fair to say that the challenges have never been greater.

The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be allowed to derail or delay action on this front. Instead, the private sector must ensure that the resulting disruption is harnessed to establish a new normal with sustainability at its core.

The Role of Packaging
The SDGs are central to what we do at Elopak, as is the belief that our work must benefit both people and planet. There can be no trade-off.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), if food waste were a country it would have the third highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world. Our job at Elopak is to make safe packaging that helps consumers to minimise this waste.

Different packaging options have varying environmental footprints and at Elopak we are continually innovating with the objective of reducing the footprint of every carton we manufacture. Recent successes on this front include a 20 per cent reduction in the carbon footprint of cartons with closures between 2014 and 2019, and the launch of our most environmentally friendly carton to date – the Pure-Pak® Imagine, earlier this year.

Elopak & the SDGs
Elopak’s business touches on many of the SDGs, both directly and indirectly. However, some are a particular focus for us because of the level of impact we believe we can have. For example, Goal 12 – ‘responsible consumption and production’ – is at the heart of what we do.

Our Pure-Pak® cartons are made using renewable natural resources and provide an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic bottles. We manufacture cartons that are fully forest based, using tall oil, a residue from paper production as a base for the plastic coating and closure, rather than relying on environmentally hazardous fossil fuels.

As forests contain 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, we believe that responsible sourcing through certification schemes is essential. In 2019, 47 per cent of our sales volume was FSC™ certified (FSC™C081801) material and all our paper is procured from sustainably managed forests and other controlled sources.

In pursuit of Goal 12 we also aim to keep materials in the loop for as long as possible in support of the move towards a more circular economy. We are constantly innovating to make our cartons more easily recyclable and work with several industry associations to improve collection and recycling rates around the world.

‘Climate action’, or Goal 13, is another guiding principle for us. Elopak is fully aware of the responsibility it has in this regard and has been carbon neutral since 2016. We work tirelessly to reduce emissions, both in our internal operations and the supply chain more broadly. Having reduced internal emissions by 70 per cent between 2008 and 2018, we are seeking a further reduction of 55 per cent by 2030 in line with our commitment to the Science Based Targets initiative. By using renewable plastics in cartons and closures we have already avoided 12,000 tonnes of GHG emissions. We are also engaging with suppliers and customers to reduce emissions across our entire value chain by 16% by 2030, also in line with the Science Based Targets initiative.

Additionally, Goal 8 – ‘decent work and economic growth – ties in well with Elopak’s historically strong commitment to beneficial labour conditions and ethical business practices. We promote these values throughout our supply chain and invite all our employees to take part in our annual ethical conduct training programme. Elopak provides jobs for 3,000 people and looks to invest in each of their skills and potential. To improve further on this front, we have set ourselves the target of becoming a top quartile motivating workplace by 2025, having 85 per cent of employees set personal targets and documented competence development plans, as well as working towards ensuring the same distribution in gender diversity across all hierarchical levels.

Towards 2030
As a producer of 15 billion cartons annually, Elopak can make a big difference. That is why, in the spirit of the SDGs, we continue to set ourselves ambitious goals on several fronts. In recent years we have been encouraged to see just how many brands are making the switch to more sustainable packaging and feel heartened by the seriousness with which consumers are treating their choices.

Looking beyond 2020, the importance of Goal 17, ‘partnership for the goals’, has never felt more important. Solutions are found fastest when we work together. Hence our participation in the recently launched HolyGrail 2.0 initiative, which brings together over 85 companies and organisations from across the packaging value chain to improve recycling through the use of pioneering digital watermarks.

Simply put, our ambition is to be in the front seat of the drive towards sustainability and Elopak will continue to be the champion of big ideas and real change.