Generic Ecology Question 2

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Question

Does the brand have clear objectives to minimize the environmental impact of packaging, by reducing, re-using and recycling, and does the brand annually report on these results?

NL: Heeft het merk (bedrijf) een duidelijke doelstelling voor het verminderen, hergebruiken en recyclen van de verpakkingen, en worden de resultaten jaarlijks bekend gemaakt?

DE: Verfolgt der Markenhersteller das klare Ziel den Umwelteinfluss der Verpackung zu verringern? Werden die entsprechenden, jährlichen Resultate veröffentlicht?

References

Product packaging can be accountable for a considerable part of the total environmental impact of products.

The impact of packaging can be reduced in several ways. Although not extensively framed in the GRI reporting guidelines, we would like to see brands report on their policies for:
- re-use packaging materials (e.g. bottles, paper)
- reduce weight of annual packaging material use
- use the lowest impact materials such as recycled and environmentally certified materials

Re-use packaging materials
See for example the beer sector where bottles are re-used.

Reduce weight
This item relates to EN1 of the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines to report the weight of (packaging) materials used. Logically, light weight packaging has a lower environmental impact compared to heavy weight packaging of the same material. It is therefore beneficial to reduce the weight of packaging materials, e.g. by optimizing the design and reduce packaging to the functionally required minimum weights.

Choice of materials
This item relates to EN2 of the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines (to report the recycled share of used materials) and is related to the previous item. The type of base material used is an important factor to influence the environmental impact of packaging. E.g. for beverages, this LCA study compares glas and PET bottles to aluminium and steel cans. As comfirmed by Milieucentraal, the preferred order is:
1. re-used glas bottle
2. steel can
3. aluminium can
4. glas bottle
For cartons, paper, aluminium, PET and all other packaging materials, there is a good choice in recycled materials and more responsible options like certified carton/paper for responsible forestry.

References for bottled drinks such as beer in specific: This LCA study indicates that packaging is accountable for half of the environmental impact, measured from farming ingredients to retail. Heineken Netherlands reports 45% of the greenhouse gas emissions are caused by packaging, measured from farm to consumption (including fridge cooling at home). And this study indicates that the packaging environmental impact varies between 15% and 65% of the beer life-cycle, dependent on the type of packaging used.

Ranking Guidelines

A ‘Yes’ is applicable when:

  • The brand/company reports the total packaging material use, broken down in volumes/weights per material type, and at least one of the following:

1. The company / brand reports recent annual reductions of packaging weight(absolute, or relative to the volumes/weights of sold product) and explains how these reductions have been achieved
2. The company / brand reports clear goals for reducing packaging weight (absolute, or relative to the volumes/weights of sold product) and describes a strategy how to achieve these goals
3. For drink companies, the company / brand reports the global take back rate of the used bottle volumes/weights and defines targets to increase this
4. The company / brand reports progressive goals for the use of more sustainable packaging materials (absolute, or relative to the volumes/weights of sold product).
5. The brand/company reports substantial results for the use of more sustainable packaging materials (absolute, or relative to the volumes/weights of sold product).

A ‘No’ is applicable when:

  • The brand/company explicitly and clearly has no policy to reduce packaging materials.

A ‘?’ is applicable when:

  • The company / brand does not publish the packaging volumes/weights, or the brand does not publish concrete goals, results to re-use or reduce the impact of the packaging.

Answering guidelines

Yes:

  • [Brand] communicates clear information about the take back, packaging improvement or weight reduction goals/initiatives/actions for its packaging, plus annual results achieved (see link, page .. ).

No:

  • [Brand] explicitly says not to [...] (see link, page ..).

?:

  • [Brand] does not communicate any information regarding efforts to minimise the impact of its packaging.
  • [Brand] does not communicate any information about the take back, packaging improvement or weight reduction goals/initiatives/actions for its packaging, if there is any, on its website. Sustainability information should be easily accessible for consumers to make responsible choices.
  • [Brand] implements several measures related to more sustainable packaging, but does not publish the annual packaging volumes/weights per material type.
  • [Brand] states to minimize its environmental impact of packaging by [... mentions some measures]. However, [Brand] does not publish the annual packaging volumes/weights per material type.