This blog was authored by Frances Mazur-Batistoni, senior sustainable packaging consultant at Anthesis. Frances attended the SPC Engage Montreal Conference in July 2022 and facilitated a workshop on how companies can transition from internal sustainability packaging goals to public-facing goals. Below, a brief overview of the key points from that workshop.
Internal and external pressures
Packaging sustainability is a journey. Companies can be at a specific point within this journey, or at multiple stages, depending on how they prioritise actions within their company. A company may have internal ambitions or goals that are set to drive progress towards sustainability but are not yet public. At Anthesis, we often see companies who are making sustainable changes or actions without realising it and need to simply formalise these actions into goals. One great example of this is receiving retailer requests to increase use of sustainably sourced fibres. Companies react to this request without realising that they are making strides in their journey, which can be enacted into an internal or public-facing goal.
Companies set goals due to various external and internal pressures. There are many external pressures which may affect a company’s decision making, such as managing their reputational risk by working to keep up with competitors or responding to changing key stakeholder preferences. There are a lot of nuances to unpack with the key stakeholders, since there is a fine balance to be had in satisfying consumers, investors and retailers. Another external pressure to consider within your company is packaging regulations. It is vital to stay proactive, rather than reactive, in this space to prevent unnecessary fees.
When setting goals for sustainable packaging, it is easy to only focus on the external pressures that exist, as they are more tangible and obvious. However, there is an opportunity to dig into the internal pressures and unlock how you can make goals that truly empower your team to make the right decisions. Teams are typically standing in front of a wall of levers that can be pulled to make their packaging more sustainable and it’s hard to know where to start, while also taking into account the tradeoffs that might occur. Having clearly defined goals states what the priority is to the company, and thus leads the team to feel empowered and confident in the levers that should be pulled for sustainable design practises. Internal goals help a company step into these priorities and fine tune them by first learning how the team might progress and measure towards the goal before possibly making it a public commitment.
Once a company has walked through the high-level considerations, there are a few things that should be in place before bringing a goal public-facing:
- Benchmark peers and competitors
- Understand feasibility via gap-to-goal scenarios
- Track and report data
- Define goal roles/responsibilities/governance structure moving forward
Considerations for goals setting
There are many considerations to think about when strategizing a goal approach, such as what internal goals should be made public. Setting a public-facing goal demonstrates the intent and commitment your company is going to make for more sustainable design to various stakeholders, such as suppliers, partners, and customers. It can also signal the increasing demand for certain materials such as recycled content, which in turn signals the need for improved recycling infrastructure.
Some top considerations to make when choosing the right goal to transition include:
Goal setting framework
Once a company has developed a clear vision and strategy, the deep-dive into framing an internal goal into a public-facing goal can begin. Here we will walk through an example of setting up a goal centred around recycled content.
To start, the public-facing decisions are assessed to define the approach of whether this goal will be absolute or relative. Is the level of ambition above competitors, or will the company sit more in the middle to carry on an “in the pack” scenario? The timeframe is also key to defining when the company will accomplish this goal. Here, it is possible to internally set completion to be earlier than public facing. The wording is then chosen to define what is included in the goal. In this case, we are just focusing on recycled content. Now it’s time to dig into the fine print and fully define what recycled content means within this goal. Is it PCR, PIR, or both? Lastly, what is in scope for this goal? Are all markets, products, and packaging formats included, or will the company only focus on certain areas of each category? For instance, there could be a focus only on primary and secondary packaging for this goal. After all these considerations, we end with a draft goal wording that can be circulated for approval.
Overall, there are many considerations that go into creating a goal, whether it be internal or public-facing. The key is that no matter the type of goal, it empowers your team to begin making the right decisions towards more sustainable packaging.