Extended Producer Responsibility – the greatest sustainability pledge

Zero waste. 100 percent plastic-free. Made with 100 percent renewable energy. Sustainably sourced. These are just a few of the grand promises that multinational companies are now making as they claim to be waging war on plastic.

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series on the BBC gave way to an unrelenting stream of ambitious new targets and aspirational narratives from big business over the past few years.

But are businesses integrating sustainability principles and practices into everything they do? Or is it a case of using feel-good rhetoric to placate governments, activists, and consumers?

Packaging volumes continue to rise globally. Eurostat recently put the volume of packaging waste at a record high of 79.3 million tonnes. The increasing waste volumes are inflated by over packaging, which, alongside single-use models, non-recyclable materials and plastic entering our natural environments, create complex challenges for our planet, climate, and biodiversity.

While customer and retail-facing packaging afford opportunities to design packaging solutions that reflect values and sustainability ambitions, this only accounts for a proportion of industry-wide packaging waste. Our complex, global, and often shared supply chains also create significant amounts of packaging, which can often be overlooked.

Many of the businesses we work with have starring roles to play in contributing to sustainability and regenerative growth, which also present great opportunities for the industry.

Sustainability is about capacity for now and the long term. It is about meeting social and environmental needs without compromising the ability of future generations to thrive and prosper. We are defining packaging systems for future generations.

 

On a mission to go green

Leading brands are now racing to adopt sustainability best practices and are implementing them through their operations and supply chains to gain competitive advantage and increase sales and profit margins.

Almost every day, it seems, a big brand makes another sustainability claim or commitment. Consumers can visit a brand’s Instagram to find highlights about its environmental certifications, preservation plans, and recycling practices.

The path to corporate sustainability requires companies to participate, better still, to lead and even brand the process.

The onus is on making sure the systems that products flow into are robust and circular. By leveraging our services and combining upstream measures on design and materials with post-use strategies, the system-wide approach we all want is within reach.

By promoting resource efficiency and a low-carbon footprint, being accountable for the environmental consequences of products, and their recycling or reuse in demonstratable and defined ways, we can provide a high-quality data environment upon which meaningful policymaking, efficient resource allocation and crucial investments are made.

While some well-intended corporate efforts to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use for longer, and retain the material and resource value by returning it to the system, continue to progress, Gartner, Inc. recently forecasted that 90% of public sustainable packaging commitments won’t be met by 2025.

It is important to note that commitments to do good in this sphere are only a first step in the process. Monitoring the extent to which companies ultimately deliver on their targets for behaviour change will be essential if we are to trace the tangible impact of companies’ pledges in contributing to the circular economy.

Grasping complexity and acting proactively on sustainability is key to ensuring successful compliance with packaging laws and avoiding financial sanctions. Ensuring you understand European and national obligations in depth is a toilsome task, and one which our team of experts can help with, but producers will quickly discover environmental footprint is only one of many reasons for companies to rethink their packaging strategy.

It enables businesses to meet mandatory national recycling and collection targets, shift towards more circular and more competitive business models, unlock potential for cost savings by creating cost-effective solutions for the collection and recycling of end-of-life products and support the development and improvement of waste and recycling industries.

 

Data-driven decision making

Data quality will prove instrumental to the successful future of our waste management landscape. It will rubber stamp or authenticate pledges of the future. On top of that, EPR aims to ensure that product manufacturers are made financially responsible for various parts of the life cycle of their products, including take-back, recycling, and final disposal at the end of their useful life.

Ecoveritas ensures you have the data in hand to contribute to a fair and effective solution. Transparent and accurate reporting, monitoring, and independent auditing of systems are necessary to eliminate discrimination, ensure compliance, drive cost efficiency and provide a level playing field for materials and producers.

Our comprehensive platform – Ecoview – provides users with complete transparency and accessibility to a company’s packaging data and offers brands and retailers a detailed breakdown of their packaging supply chain. No more disaggregated, decentralised, and non-standardised data.

To ensure your company is compliant, you first need to understand the restrictions, obligations and associated risks and centralise this information. This requires reviewing and understanding all the relevant legislation and obligations of each country in which a packed product is placed on the market. This process must also be executed considering all the packaging components, types, materials and characteristics.

At Ecoveritas, we continue to encourage upstream innovation. Supply chain leaders can work with their peers to create a pipeline of new products and business models that don’t rely on single-use packaging. We collectively challenge suppliers to commit to producing sustainable packaging materials, therefore increasing the organisation’s access to recycled or multi-use materials.

 

Sustainability – a way of life

Industries are increasingly introducing voluntary actions, intending to minimise the environmental impacts of their products and services. While not as powerful as mandatory measures, voluntary commitments can sometimes also trigger significant changes across the value chain.

Studies have shown that good sustainability and environmental, social and governance practices correlate with lower operating costs, better profitability, and superior performance. As we focus more on these factors, both ethically and to comply with changing environmental legislation, data reporting and supply chain transparency will be essential to meet targets and drive growth.

So, while companies continue to frame themselves as a pioneering part of the solution and see sustainability as part of a long-term mission, EPR and data collection will serve to remove the desire to mask the legal context requiring their cooperation and, in turn, encourage the highlighting of work with substance.

 

To discuss your needs or book an Ecoview demonstration, please contact the Ecoveritas team on +44 (0)1865 502176 or e-mail info@ecoveritas.com

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