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March 27, 2008
Much to the credit of Al Gores award-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, sustainability has taken on an urgency thats rare in the business world. How does a packaging company become sustainable?
Achieving sustainability in packaging must be approached on several fronts, addressing forestry practices, production practices and processes, and boardroom commitment. It wasnt too long ago when materials and labor constituted total packaging costs. Today, a more sophisticated analysis must include energy and transportation costs, as well as the cost of degradation to our ecological and social systems.
Fleetwood-Fibre Packaging and Graphics produces paper-based packaging, from basic corrugated boxes used in shipping to full-color point-of-purchase displays and high-end consumer folding carton packaging. The paperboard used is sourced not only from trees, but is also made from recycled materials
In fact, today over half of the material used in the United States to make paper is recovered waste. However, recovered paper fibers cannot be recycled indefinitely. They can be recycled on average between five to seven times before the fiber becomes too weak to use. Therefore, we depend on properly managed forests to provide trees for new, or virgin, stock for fiber-based packaging.
There are two organizations that have taken the lead in sustainable forest management: the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Fleetwood-Fibre is the first packaging company in California to hold certifications with both of these organizations.
Established in 1994 by the American Forest & Paper Association, the SFI sets standards for the United States and Canada and is comprised of diverse stakeholdersfrom loggers and family forest owners to international paper companies and conservation groups.
The FSC was formed in 1993 to codify standards for guiding forest management toward sustainable outcomes. Now applied to more than 57 countries worldwide, the Bonn, Germany-headquartered FSC sets international standards for responsible forest management and accredits independent organizations that can certify forest managers and forest product producers to FSC standards. A Chain-of-Custody Certification by the FSC means a packager tracks and records every processing step its paper products go through, from the forest to the clients dock.
The benefits of these certifications include a healthier planet. Just as powerful, though less obvious, are brand-building benefits. When consumers see these organizations logos on packaging, they have a quick and easy way to recognize products that support responsible forest management, thereby bestowing the brand with positive, environmentally responsible associations. The stringent certification process of these organizations ensures that claims of sustainability are credible and beyond repute.
On the production side, designers play a vital role. Packaging sales reps and design department staff work closely with clients to reduce the package-to-product ratio, helping to optimize every square inch of the paper stock thats specified. A good sustainable packager should also offer expertise in helping designers select the best-suited, environmentally friendly substrate for their project. For instance, printing can be made directly on corrugated liners or chipboard, which is made from reclaimed paper. This retains the integrity of high-impact graphics with low-impact environmental consequences. Finishing techniques, such as die-cutting, embossing, and engraving, are other environmentally friendly processes that can add shelf appeal.
In addition to offering a wide range of recycled stocks, its important for a packager to continually research and introduce new substrates. For example, we are able to replace a traditional clamshell with a fiber-based antitheft solution printed on MeadWestvacos Natralock. This package design not only uses up to 60-percent less plastic than the conventional clamshell, it increases visibility with more printable surface and a smaller footprint.
In print production, inks can be the most damaging to the environment because of their volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and the heavy metals used in metallic and fluorescent pigments. Fleetwood-Fibre uses only vegetable-based or water-based inks in its processes.
Our path to becoming a sustainable packaging enterprise has not only given us an unwavering commitment to protect the environment, but it has also helped us cut costs, reduce waste, and improve efficiencies. Applying both sustainable and lean manufacturing principles has resulted in benefits to everyone, including our customers.
Cheryl Edwards has 20 plus years in graphics packaging and specializes in the natural, organic, and nutraceutical markets. She is on the board of directors for Fleetwood-Fibre and can be contacted at mailto:[email protected]
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