Titled ‘The Business of Sustainable Packaging’ the recent one day seminar hosted by the Packaging Council of New Zealand provided much food for thought for members of the industry
Consumers set the agenda
Kim Campbell, chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) kicked off the day with a concise talk that set out the business case for sustainable packaging case.
Campbell drew examples from his extensive experience in manufacturing and exporting businesses in New Zealand and his time overseas to point out the necessity for packaging businesses to embrace sustainability. He said, “Consumers have enormous power these days about finding their rights.”
Jacqueline Ireland, managing director of Colmar Brunton’s Auckland office and Rae Nield, marketing law expert continued with Campbell’s theme. Ireland pointed out some of the issues around green washing while Nield covered the legal side sustainability, quoting from cases old and new, including the now infamous Ribena case.
She said, “The bulk of communications on false advertising that arrive on my desk have involved packaging. For example, the Ribena case where two Auckland school girls tested the drink and found it had no vitamin C content, contrary to the advertising claims. The girls’ teacher contacted Ribena, which initially took no action. However, later the company pleaded guilty when charged and got a NZ$135,000 fine. It hit the front pages of every daily in the world. The loss of value to the brand was massive.
“The information you give your customers should be complete. If your product has special characteristics, it needs to have been tested. Who is watching: your competitors, your customers’ competitors, the Commerce Commission, and of course consumers. The best consumer is the one that complains about something you needed to know. Never assume that customers will understand what you think is obvious.”
Bar codes and patents
The chief executive of GS1 New Zealand, Dr Peter Stevens, gave a presentation on how companies can use codes to provide consumers with a massive amount of information on the products they are looking at. He also explained about GS1.
He said, “GS1 is one of those weird not for profit organisations. Here, we are owned in New Zealand by New Zealanders but globally it has some of the world’s best known brands.
“We all wish that packaging was large enough to read the labels and lists of ingredients. Did you know that you can get an app to read small writing on labels? How about an app that lets you know information from the products bar codes? Consumers don’t want to have to read the details on the back of your packaging. Before the iPhone app there was no reasonable way of doing this. Now, 40 per cent of iPhones in the US market have scanned something, largely for price comparison.
“But what do consumers want to know? They want to know what makes them fat; the country of origin of the product; and which one is best. If there is a scalable way of finding answers to those things, that is what people want. Brand owners have information and that is really important.
“So what we now have is what is called the digital challenge. How can we get the information that the consumers want to know? Often, the digital information is largely incorrect. And sometimes no information exists.
“GS1 is the standards body. What we are trying to do is provide a trusted source of data across the industry. So there is an accountability framework there to ask: What is the product? Who is the producer? Product description? Product URL? Product image? Strangely, brand owners haven’t yet taken this up but people want to be able to ask the same question across different brands. With the right codes, consumers can ping the product with their app and go to a trusted source or straight to the company web site.”
Paul Adams, founder and chief executive of EverEdge IP, spoke about protecting intellectual property, explaining the processes around patents and how to move god ideas into money. He said, “We help our clients make money from ideas. If you are going from ideas to money, you need a lot of help along the way. The key things companies do wrong are failure to assess what they have and failure to plan. Sustainability comes from having strong IP proposition. Patents are simply a business tool.
Improvement through technology
Simon Healy, chief executive and president of Irish company Mediaware, presented a case for increased automation and digital packaging printing.
With a background in supermarket management in Ireland, Healy became involved in printing through software. He says, “My business partner is a printer. We branched out into software and created Mediaware, originally to fulfil a Microsoft contract. Since then we expanded the software side of the business and worked closely with Xerox to develop marketing. We work with food companies; that, to me, is packaging.
“Using digital printing, you just order what you need. That’s one advantage of digital. The other advantage is variable data printing. We made a box for a mobile phone where we placed the clients name on the box and had specific details of the clients account manager and technical support powers don also on the box. The variable data has a field. We take data from a file that is then uploaded. Our system caters for multiple amounts of small orders. They are not necessarily short runs.
“You automate the front end to the point where there is no human interaction. The software technology is one of the first cloud-based systems that enables customers access to the print device. It’s all done on lock down pdf. The designer designs the pdf and the client signs off on that. We get a print ready file; we don’t need to check it. There is no proofing. It cuts down on mistakes. What we see is what we print.
“What paper was ten years ago, packaging is there today. Traditional packaging will change. It’s not a competing technology; it is a complementary technology.”
Jonathan Marshall, general manager of O-I New Zealand, spoke about how to achieve continuous improvement. He said, “Glass is a product that is truly 100 per cent recyclable. Every bottle can be re-melted back into another bottle. Our life cycle assessment is based on a cradle to cradle approach. O-I, almost the biggest packaging company in the world, is also one of the biggest users of recycled material in the world. This gives us a good global perspective about what drives sustainability. We have lot of global, regional and local brands.
“We have conducted a lot of research globally to better understand what the consumers want. The preference for glass is high. As we went through the study the key messages covered taste, security and sustainability. This has started to drive the way we think about our business.
“In 2007, we identified some step-changing improvements such as safety, energy, cullet and emissions. If we can get more cullet back into our furnaces, we can reduce the cost of our product. We see that as a sustainable competitive advantage.
“Weight is the holy grail for the glass industry. We know we have to make bottles lighter. There are downstream benefits for doing this. A significant investment in technology has helped us do that. When you are in the glass business, the glass starts full. To meet the requirements of our customers, we concentrate on process improvement and process control. We make 750million bottles per year at Penrose. My belief is that the most sustainable systems are also the most efficient systems.”
Decision for the future
Pierre Pienaar, president of the Australian Institute of Packaging offered valuable advice on the decisions and trade-offs to be made when launching a new product or changing the design of an existing product.
Jeremy Warnes, from Scion, the Crown Research agency, said, “The Consumer Goods Forum is leading the way in developing metrics for sustainable packaging and the international standards bodies are following. Life cycle analysis is very complex, but is useful in identifying hot spots, i.e. specific areas which can be focussed on to make significant reductions in environmental impact.”
Annette Lusk, from sustainability experts Sustainable Edge, said that sustainable procurement is part of being a sustainable business. She said, “Businesses and governments which have introduced sustainable procurement report between eight per cent and 30 per cent efficiency improvements – which go straight to the bottom line. In New Zealand, sustainable procurement is becoming more of a factor in winning a tender, particularly with local government.”
Ian Maddaford, general manager of recycling for Transpacific Industries, said believes that New Zealand lacks good data on waste streams and the country needs national statistics against which we can benchmark progress in waste minimisation. He said, “While local New Zealand markets are unable to take up all the available material collected, New Zealand will have to rely on overseas markets to take our recyclates, despite the high transport costs. Clean, source separated material attracts the best prices. Consistent product quality and volume, fluctuating commodity prices, foreign exchange rates and transport costs are all major factors in the economics of recycling.”
Dr Martin Markotsis, polymer scientist at Scion, pointed out that although composting is an ideal disposal route for food contaminated compostable packaging, it should come after initiatives to reduce, re-use, and recycle. He said, “There are a variety of international standards in place to measure the compostability of packaging materials and Scion has composting test equipment which is available for use by industry.”
Gary McGuire, from Envirofert, explained how composting results in carbon dioxide release during the composting process and after the compost is added to the soil. He said, “As this carbon dioxide is biogenic (natural) in origin it is not counted as a greenhouse gas. Well managed compost operations usually do not generate methane.”
Envirofert has conducted a trial on various types of packaging to determine if they are compostable under their process. He said, “This is a six month trial. The results are of interest to fast food outlets, festival and event organisers and for food storage. It will allow for greater ease of sorting of food waste at source.”