Scientists and economists love using models to make future predictions, despite the use of assumptions that tend to make such predictions imperfect. It is impossible to fully know what the future holds. Still, having some idea is better than having no idea and models enable us to visualise what could potentially become the real thing. It allows forward thinking government and business decisions and investments to be made today that will influence where we end up tomorrow.
This month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released their Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction. Assuming “no new policies”, it projects existing socio-economic trends forward fourty years and their implications for four key areas of concern: climate change, biodiversity, water and the health impacts of environmental pollution. Read the rest of this entry »
Associate, Shane Gladigau, contributed to an article in the March edition of WME magazine related to social forces and corporate sustainability.
To read the article click here
At its basic level, to be sustainable means to remain in existence. Environmental problems – internal and external – are a threat to the daily operations and longevity of many businesses: Read the rest of this entry »
Every product and service that we use has a positive and negative impact – on a social, economic and environmental level. Often these impacts are not obvious or immediate until you step back and examine the complete life cycle of those products and services. Life cycle thinking is a framework for analysing, understanding, managing and optimising this cycle. It is critical in helping us achieve a more sustainable way of living.
Under PACIA’s Sustainability Leadership Framework, the Australian chemistry industry has adopted the following goal: an industry taking a life cycle view of materials, processes and products. However, industry can’t do it alone. It is important for the whole value chain and broader community – including regulators, researchers, suppliers, manufacturers, brand owners, retailers and consumers – to be engaged in the dialogue and work together to create better outcomes.
On Tuesday morning, PACIA offered a unique opportunity for fourty participants to have an active discussion about life cycle thinking, the drivers and its benefits. The morning was a great chance to learn from others, contribute diverse views and experiences, and help frame the future of life cycle thinking in Australia.
LyondellBasell, Australia’s sole manufacturer of polypropylene, has taken a lead role in leveraging life cycle thinking into its business and using it to advantage in their markets. Katherine Simmons and James Harrington provided a key note presentation on their real-life key learnings about the benefits and challenges of life cycle thinking for business and the environment.
This was followed by a facilitated workshop with Equilibrium, where the following was discussed and debated:
- The value that understanding life cycles brings to business, industry, the community, research, government and regulators (for example, identifying opportunities to gain a stronger competitive advantage, stabilising costs, resource productivity, improving strategic decision-making, designing better products and services, identifying new business opportunities and markets, providing credible evidence to back-up marketing claims, improving relationships with key stakeholders, better regulatory policy setting, and better management of risks up and down the supply chain)
- The tools, resources and programs driving the take-up of life cycle principles
- Gaps in life cycle literacy
- The best path forward, and who needs to take action
It’s difficult to have a product without a package. Packaging plays a key role in our society, allowing for the transportation, storage, protection, promotion and consumption of a huge range of products. From the most complex structural packaging used to protect computers, to the most minimal such as egg cartons, all packaging serves the same purpose. Today, it’s expected that packaging not only fulfil its many roles, but do it with minimal environmental impacts.
Alternatives to current packaging needs are being taken seriously, especially as packaging is often singled out as among the chief contributors to current environmental problems. Many of the gains that are being made in sustainable packaging, from cradle to grave, and cradle to cradle, are generally invisible to the average consumer walking along the shop aisle. Manufacturers are evaluating the sustainability impacts and opportunities across the entire lifecycle of their packaging products in order to support cost reductions, reduce negative environmental impacts and make progress towards sustainability.
Equilibrium recently participated in a forum and series of workshops held by the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) as they launched their white paper “The Future of Packaging”.
The white paper is a cooperative and collective response to the key issues and trends facing food, grocery and packaging manufacturers. Its aim is to create tangible actions to improve the sustainability of packaging over the next 5-10 years and shift from ‘end of pipe’ recovery to better designs from the beginning.
While progress in packaging sustainability is being made through initiatives such as light-weighting and improved recyclability, a number of challenges remain:
- The rate of growth in packaging consumption has slowed, however it continues to increase overall (due to increasing population, rising incomes, increased consumption of convenience foods).
- Innovative packaging formats are emerging, however end of life challenges continue (eg. breakage, use of mixed material packaging). Packaging manufacturers are working on innovative ways to create eco-friendly ranges from bio-plastic containers, stretch-wrap, and filling, to natural cellulose foam. Biodegradable packaging is also being developed, which refers to the ability of a product to be broken down into simpler forms by living organisms, thus reducing its persistence in the environment in its original form, rather than the use of petrochemical plastics that persist in the environment for much longer time frames. However, the use of these new ingredients presents new challenges for recovery and recycling.
- Increased consumer demand for convenience foods brings a requirement for more complex packaging to increase shelf-life.
- Significant changes in the retail sector, with increased imports driven by private labels and the high Australian dollar, is leading to greater diversity in packaging and its end-of-life recovery requirements.
- With an ageing population there is increasing demand for accessible packaging (ie. easy to open and read). Frustration-free packaging is demanded to offset ‘wrap-rage’.
- Food safety continues to grow in importance for many consumers (eg. heavy metals migration into food).
- There is increasing demand for supply chain information and transparency around packaging’s environmental and social impacts.
The AFGC is working to meet these challenges and achieve its stated vision: packaging for food and groceries is designed, manufactured, used and recovered in ways that are socially beneficial and environmentally sustainable.