Stepping Up on The Sustainable Development Goals

This week the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meets in New York City for its 77th session. There are of course many pressing global issues that will be addressed during the session, not least the continued effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine.

However, one issue that has remained at the top of the agenda for decades now is the urgent need to address climate change. More specifically it is the need for countries and other actors to incorporate strategies to mitigate climate change and protect the environment into their sustainable development agendas.

This issue was first addressed by the UN at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro, resulting in 178 countries adopting Agenda 21: a comprehensive action plan for sustainable development to improve human lives and protect the environment.

Over time these efforts were further developed and in 2015 resulted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These goals are intended to serve as a blueprint to creating a better and more sustainable future for all people; addressing global challenges including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation and conflict.

Barely seven years later, however, these goals are under serious threat. In July, a report into the SDGs’ progress found that global crises, including the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, are seriously hampering efforts to limit carbon emissions, protect our oceans, and ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, among other key objectives. The report warns that in light of the ongoing crises, even more urgent action is needed to keep the SDGs on track.

Elopak is a strong supporter of the 2030 Agenda and strives to work in strict accordance with the SDGs, in particular Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth; Goal 12 on responsible consumption and production; Goal 13 on climate action; and Goal 17 on partnership for the goals.

We are therefore concerned by the findings of this report, in particular those relating to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The report found that in 2021 energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 6% compared to the previous year, reaching the highest levels of CO2 in the atmosphere on record. It also found that global temperatures have continued to rise unabated, leading to more extreme weather events. If global emissions are not significantly curtailed soon, the report predicts that medium-to-large scale disasters will increase by 40% by 2030, with drought estimated to displace 700 million people by the same year.

Beverage cartons are already a natural fit within a low-carbon, circular economy; being both recyclable and made from renewable materials. Multiple life-cycle assessments (LCAs) have shown that cartons have a lower carbon footprint than plastic bottles, with a study from May 2021 showing that cartons used for fresh milk and juices in North America have a 32% lower carbon footprint than HDPE and 60% lower than PET bottles. By providing consumers with a sustainable and low carbon packaging solution, Elopak hopes to empower people to make climate-conscious decisions that contribute to bringing down global emissions.

Recently, we announced new emission reduction targets, verified by the Science Based Targets initiative, with the aim of becoming a net-zero company by the year 2050. In doing so, Elopak has committed to reducing its absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 42% by 2030, including all direct emissions from fuel combustion at our factories. We have also pledged to cut scope 3 GHG emissions 25% by the same year, encompassing all indirect emissions related to Elopak’s products, such as raw materials, transportation, and business travel.

By making these kind of commitments we hope to raise the bar on sustainable corporate development and encourage other companies to join us on the journey to net-zero. We are following developments at UNGA very closely this week and hope that countries and other actors will continue to work together to keep the dream of the Sustainable Development Goals alive.