Closing gaps in knowledge and improving understanding about the benefits of renewable materials can have a transformative effect on the economy and the environment, according to findings in a new report from Tetra Pak.
The report, Embracing Value From Natural Capital: Advancing Packaging Solutions that Consumers Want and Companies Can Provide, explores opportunities for the CPG industry to take advantage of growing consumer preference for packaging made with renewable materials, as part of the solution to natural resource scarcity. The report also highlights some hurdles that must be addressed, including cost concerns among companies and the need for greater alignment around ongoing education and outreach to consumers.
Tetra Pak’s report is based on knowledge gathered through the company’s series of Learning Labs held throughout 2015, as part of its Moving to the Front campaign encouraging consumer goods companies to embrace renewable packaging to help address the impacts of resource scarcity on their businesses. Through surveys, dialogues and roundtable discussions with industry leaders and consumers, insights were collected and barriers to using renewable materials — real and perceived — were examined.
The report cites four factors that have hindered increased adoption of renewable materials:
- Communication gaps and misunderstandings around definitions and vocabulary associated with renewable materials;
- Complexity around perceived required transformations of manufacturing infrastructure and supply chain systems;
- Cost concerns that hamper C-level endorsement of investments in changes or new practices and/or technologies; and
- Consumer demand, which is dependent on more education and information.
As noted in the report, while consumer awareness of resource scarcity is still relatively low, when educated, consumers become a willing partner to help mitigate the issue. And industry participants in the labs uniformly acknowledge that consumer demand has the potential to serve as a tipping point toward accelerated adoption, even in the face of other barriers.
“Undeniably, as our Learning Labs showed us, consumers are responsive to the value and benefits of renewables when provided with the right education and information,” said Elisabeth Comere, Director of Environment and Government Affairs at Tetra Pak. “We anticipate that consumers will increasingly factor this into their purchasing behaviors and decisions.”
According to the report, overcoming barriers and advancing understanding around the importance of using renewable materials in packaging will be important as the world shifts toward a more restorative, regenerative circular economy, which builds value from optimizing materials and minimizing waste. A 2015 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey estimated that if Europe alone adopted circular economy principles, the impending technology revolution would create a net benefit of €1.8 trillion by 2030, or €0.9 trillion more than in the current linear development path.
“Industry has a key role to play in implementing strategies and meaningful actions for protecting natural eco-systems and relying less on finite resources,” Comere said. She noted that UNEP’s International Resource Panel, composed of eminent scientists and experts in natural resource management, recently reported that natural resource extraction will increase from 85 to 186 billion tons over the next 35 years. However, effective resource efficiency can reduce extraction by 28 percent which, in turn, can help to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 74 percent by 2050 and increase economic output (GDP) by 1 percent in G7 countries and globally.
Tetra Pak released the world’s first fully renewable packaging in 2014; the Tetra Rex carton is made from bio-based low-density polyethylene (LDPE) films and bio-based high-density polyethylene (HDPE) caps, both derived from sugar cane, and FSC-certified paperboard.