1. the reusable factor:
There is currently a very strong trend toward reusable packaging and new systems, and this trend will intensify in the coming years. Reusable packaging also includes refill systems, i.e., refilling containers or filling them on site in packaging provided. Here we will see entirely new approaches to how containers are designed, whether through digitization using individual codes to enable tracking, new shapes for better cleaning and hygiene, or even materials that facilitate multiple uses, reduced packaging that takes up less space, lighter materials, and better cleaning processes with less need for water, chemicals, and energy. The more internationally applicable these systems are, the greater the effect will be on reducing packaging waste, resource waste, and thus climate damage and natural pollution. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation calculates the savings potential of packaging at 20%. We believe that this is probably even under-calculated because we are seeing more and more intelligent reusable packaging on the market. In the B2B sector, functioning reusable systems have been in place for years in the OEM sector or even within production facilities or to the customer.
2. the logistics factor
Logistics represents a major influence on the climate and will change significantly in the future. Whereas today we still use almost exclusively fossil fuels for transportation, this will change significantly in the next few years to regenerative energy sources, both on the road, rail or water. As a result of the much lower CO2 emissions per kilometer traveled, the transportation factor takes on a different meaning. It does not necessarily have to be lighter and space-saving packaging; heavier packaging that is reused more frequently can also become more interesting in the overall picture. Even today, disposable packaging is transported several hundred kilometers even after it has been disposed of by the user, whether in the yellow bag or in the waste paper container until it is sorted or recycled – not to mention the many thousands of kilometers by ship to overseas regions or within Europe to sorting and recycling facilities. A very positive side effect of lower CO2 emissions from fossil fuels is also the reduction of harmful exhaust gases produced in the process. Corona and the shutdown of industries worldwide have shown how much smog pollution and air quality improve when emissions are dramatically reduced.
3. the resource factor
Our resources are known to be finite, even mining renewable resources and replacing them with monocultures or using bio-based sources is currently already resulting in a loss of resources. In the coming years, it will become increasingly important to reduce the extraction of natural resources, to prevent fossil resources as far as possible and to promote biodiversity. Palm oil from plantations can be made more compatible under certain conditions, but biodiversity in these regions is declining dramatically. This is also true of avocado cultivation, which requires enormous amounts of water for irrigation, causing entire areas of land to become desolate. Likewise, the mining of lithium, the mining of bauxite for aluminum production or the fracking of oil creates enormous natural pollution, which is not directly evaluated in CO2, but has a great impact. Water is a very essential resource that we are currently wasting too liberally and will need to make more environmentally friendly use of it in the future. Drought, lower water tables, dwindling glaciers – all of these have an impact on our climate and will lead to higher energy consumption because the effort required to offset the consequences will also increase.
In packaging, we are currently talking about defossilization, decarbonization and deforestation – in other words, the move away from fossil raw materials to fiber-based packaging and the impact on wood stocks. In both areas, however, we also see opportunities to offset these risks with more bio-based alternatives: be it alternative agricultural or manufacturing waste materials processed into fiber-based packaging or bioplastics and barriers.
4. the production factor
The commodity and energy crisis caused by Corona and Russia's war in Ukraine provide a catalyst for how we need to push forward on the path to renewable energy in manufacturing. Until now, it has been cheap and easy to rely on gas, a supposedly climate-friendly energy source. This has prevented companies from letting their efforts to reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions and the use of renewable energies slide. Dramatically increased costs and the threat of shortages are now creating emergency measures across the board. Not everywhere can immediately switch to photovoltaics from the production roof or building façade, wind turbines on industrial or commercial sites, or installation of bio-power plants. But those who set out years ago are now at an advantage.
By production, however, we also mean the effect of where production takes place. Due to the crisis, containers have become many times more expensive, transport from the Far East has become a cost driver, transit times have increased significantly, further processing in other countries has been prevented or delayed, and delivery times have more than doubled in some cases. This production in the Far East has thus become uncertain, expensive and more long-term. The order books are full, but the ability to deliver is severely limited. The factor of cheap production costs – usually also accompanied by poorer quality and higher wear and tear and resource consumption – has correspondingly also had a significant impact to the detriment of the climate through the much higher CO2 emissions in the production countries in conjunction with fossil fuels and the long transport routes via sea routes. Digitalization, automation and individualization could bring about a trend toward “on-site“ production over the next few years.
5 The knowledge factor
Essential to switching products and packaging to a more climate-friendly alternative is awareness of the status quo. If I know where to find my main CO2 drivers, I can align my goals and actions to reduce them. With this knowledge, I can initiate various direct measures: compensate the CO2 effort, start the reduction and also list the knowledge in the annual sustainability reports and also communicate it to the outside world. For many, this topic is more of a nuisance. But since there is a saving at the end, because I reduce waste of time and material, it should not only be seen as a legal necessity, but should be pursued in the very own interest of the company.
Knowledge can also mean taking the employees in the company along on the journey, for example by training the responsible heads of the departments or the management – because top management is a very important factor in how climate change is lived in the company. More and more companies are recognizing this need to build up a broad high level of knowledge within the company so that, as a first step, corporate goals can be defined and targeted strategies adopted.