Knowing what you have enables sustainability
-by Matthew Wright | Founder & CEO
The conversation and drive to be green/sustainable is a critical item on the priority list impacting everybody’s future. Those that want to be change agents are having a hard time gaining meaningful traction and are finding that sustainability is not a simple task.
The rough definition of “green packaging” is using the lightest material, made from the least impactful source, highest recycled content, locally made with a low carbon footprint, procured and produced in the most efficient system. That’s a mouthful. How do you understand and manage all of these elements to develop the most environmentally friendly packaging?
- Accurate data is mandatory to maximize the benefits of all aspects of green packaging. Imagine being able to share good data back and forth with testing labs, academia, new product developers, logistics providers, and retailers. Now you can ask yourself “how much more innovative could my packaging be?”
- Analysis of this data is needed to best understand what is “most” green and where to focus your efforts. For example, if you get a bag from 100% recycled content that is made 2,000 miles away, is it better than one that is made 20 miles away from 50% recycled content? Which one is better for the earth today and tomorrow?
- Widespread adoption is required to make green packaging truly sustainable. If you find a green solution but mass demand is not there, then the price is not workable. A platform is needed to share this finding with like converts. You need to be able to quickly adapt a specification to a more sustainable version that can be shared instantly for costing and availability.
To do the above, you need technology and all parties in your supply chain need access –imagine a software platform to instantly scorecard your success and share it with others. By using technology to increase sustainability, you not only help the earth but you free up packaging engineers to work on innovative and progressive designs with new eco-friendly materials that you now have access to.
Sustainability-driven design software programs are very powerful tools for creating environmentally friendly packaging designs. However, to fully empower those systems, they need to be connected to a larger hub of comprehensive data. Collaboration on a common platform enables businesses to create a green supply chain with transportation companies, packaging providers, retailers, and your own internal employees. However, none of this can be done if you don’t know the details (the specs) of what packaging you are purchasing and using.
The most efficient systems are arguably the most green. Quality errors, which double the negative environmental impact, are avoided with good clean data deployed in an efficient manner. Eliminating non-conformances will significantly reduce packaging waste. From the vendor perspective, packaging suppliers can develop the right green products in the right places if they know the true data and have access to it. Enabling packaging producers to know where to build new plants, what type of products need a green solution and which companies have the ability to easily change creates efficiency in green progress. We must involve technology in solving these problems or else we are just shuffling the issue around and not making progress. With the trend of more and more packaging being created, this is the only option.
I truly believe that by sharing data on a common platform to enable sustainability, together we will have a meaningful impact on all of our futures.
Matthew Wright ([email protected]) is the Founder and CEO of Specright,
the spec system for the digital world. Matthew has over 25 years of experience in packaging and has held various operational and management roles with International Paper and Temple-Inland. While Vice President for Temple-Inland he ran a $500M business unit. A prior version of this post was published in May 2017.