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  • 02 Dec 2015

Industry backs action on climate change

Members of the label and package supply chain have backed strong action on climate change as a major international conference in Paris, France aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on limiting climate change.

The international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where the Rio Convention included the adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.’ The UNFCCC, which came into force on March 21, 1994, now has a near-universal membership of 195 parties. The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created. In 2015, COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C.

COP21, running until December 11, is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

US president Barack Obama has made further moves to bring about positive action on climate change, with the White House launching the American Business Act on Climate Pledge in July 2015 to enlist business support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by between 26 and 28 percent. By signing the pledge, companies also agree to voice support for a strong outcome from COP21, as well as demonstrate an ongoing commitment to climate action and set an example for their peers.

Climate pledge

Avery Dennison is one of those to have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, as have DuPont, Xerox, National Label Company, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestlé USA, Mars, P&G, Unilever, Mondelez and Novartis. The likes of Amazon, Airbnb, Facebook and LinkedIn are signatories too.

Avery Dennison’s pledge includes: reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by at least three percent annually, and by at least 26 percent overall between 2015 and 2025; eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities by 2020, in alignment with the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests; purchasing 100 percent of its paper from certified sources by 2025; purchasing at least 70 percent of its paper from FSC-certified sources by 2025; and developing long-term business plans that align with the deep decarbonization necessary to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C.

‘Signing the pledge was an easy decision because we’re already doing the things that the pledge asked of us,’ says Dean Scarborough, Avery Dennison chairman and CEO. ‘We unequivocally support an agreement coming out of Paris that takes a strong step toward a low-carbon future. We are cutting our own carbon emissions and taking additional measures to tackle climate change.’

DuPont revealed its 2020 Sustainability Goals as part of its pledge, which address innovation, food security and its operational footprint. Sustainable innovation will see DuPont further embed sustainability in its innovation process and challenge all products in the pipeline to contribute to a ‘safer, healthier, more sustainable world’. DuPont recently opened a cellulosic biofuel facility in Nevada, Iowa, the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant, with the capacity to produce 30 million gallons per year of clean fuel that offers a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to gasoline. To further scale production of cellulosic ethanol globally, DuPont will license the technology, deploying hundreds of millions of gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2025. The company’s food security goals center on developing innovations that will produce more food, enhance nutritional value, improve agriculture sustainability, boost food safety, extend food freshness and reduce waste. It will also continue its work to improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities worldwide. And by the end of 2020, it aims to facilitate two million engagements with young people around the world to transfer the knowledge of sustainable food and agriculture and the impact it will have on a growing population. DuPont’s operational footprint goals include: reducing its non-renewable energy use; reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity by seven percent from a 2015 baseline; having each DuPont business meet a 2020 waste goal appropriate to its operations; and having all DuPont sites in locations evaluated as high or extremely high water-risk establish water risk mitigation plans and complete priority implementation objectives by 2020.

National Label Company has stated that it, ‘strives to become a corporate environmental steward throughout all aspects of the organization’. Its pledge includes moves to: continue and expand waste to energy programs; offer 100 percent sustainable raw materials that have zero net deforestation; offer sustainable raw materials that reduce material calipers up to 15 percent; reduce energy used per label 10 percent by 2020; reduce corrugate consumption 15 percent by 2020; reduce GHG emissions 20 percent by 2020; and produce or purchase 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.

Packaging reduction

Mondelez sets out plans to cut waste in its pledge, alongside reducing its carbon and water footprints. It plans to eliminate 65,000 tonnes of packaging, without contributing to food waste, and reduce its total manufacturing waste by 20 percent.

A number of those who have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge have factored packaging into their pledges. Hershey’s, for instance, is to save an additional 25 million pounds of packaging material by 2025, augmenting the 16 million pounds it has already saved since 2009. Coca-Cola pledges to reduce the carbon footprint of ‘the drink in your hand’ by 25 percent by 2020, extending across its entire value chain, from ingredient sourcing, manufacturing processes, packaging formats, delivery fleet and refrigeration equipment.

McDonald’s is to source 100 percent of fiber-based packaging from recycled or certified sources by 2020, and L’Oreal USA wants, also by 2020, to have 100 percent certified board and paper for packaging and promotional material. Computer technology firm Dell pledges to implement zero-waste packaging across its product offerings by 2020, sourcing all packaging materials from sustainable/renewable sources and ensuring all packaging materials are recyclable or compostable.

For P&G, the aim is to have 100 percent of paper packaging be either recycled content or third party certified virgin material by 2020.

Sound strategy

Avery Dennison’s Dean Scarborough describes climate change as an, ‘imminent global threat that demands urgent action from all segments of society, including business.

‘It poses risks to people, communities, ecosystems and, obviously, our business. Responding to climate change by reducing emissions is, above all, a moral imperative. It’s consistent with our company’s ethics and guiding principles. And if we want to stay in business for the long term, then addressing the risks posed by climate change is simply sound strategy.’

David Pittman


David Pittman is former deputy editor of Labels & Labeling.

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