On average, packaging accounts for about 5% of the energy used in the life cycle of a food product making it a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.[i] And for some products, the packaging used has an even bigger impact on climate change than the fuel used to ship it to market.
Here is one example of how packaging compares with other areas of greenhouse gas emissions.
What is expected of companies that commit to reducing the climate impact of packaging?
Companies will implement practices to reduce the GHG emissions associated with their packaging to the greatest degree they deem possible. There are many ways to reduce the climate impact of packaging including reducing materials a.k.a. “source reduction”; replacing virgin materials with post-consumer recycled content; replacing traditional plastics made from fossil fuels with biopolymers; re-designing packaging to use materials more efficiently to cut down on the GHG emissions required for transport and storage; and recycling at end of the packaging’s life to name just a few practices.
Simply adopting practices like those listed above is a great first step. Using a tool (see the resources section below) to measure the GHG impacts of your packaging can also help you design the negative climate impacts out of your packaging supply chain.
While climate is the focus of the Climate Collaborative, we realize that many factors go into packaging decisions including consumer preference, product shelf-life, price, performance and convenience. Additionally there are multiple environmental considerations including packaging end-of life and circular systems, toxicity, litter, water pollution, marine eco toxicity and more. The ideal is to achieve climate reductions while simultaneously addressing other key factors that your company may value.
Companies committing to reduce climate impact of packaging will be expected to complete an annual online questionnaire updating the Climate Collaborative on progress made toward the commitment. The questionnaire will be short and should not be burdensome to complete.
How can the Climate Collaborative help?
The Climate Collaborative will provide webinars, workshops and networking opportunities for companies to learn ways to reduce the climate impact of their packaging. We will also highlight the best practices of companies who are leading the way with their packaging. Do you have a best practice to share? We’d love to hear about it – contact us.
The Climate Collaborative is currently in conversation with several organizations that provide software tools for measuring the GHG emissions from packaging. These tools can be used to create a baseline for your packaging climate contribution and to evaluate potential packaging changes. We expect to negotiate discounts for the use of the software for companies that have made a packaging commitment with the Climate Collaborative.
Our Packaging Resources page highlights case studies, videos, tools, and other resources from our partners for organizations interested in diving into the climate impact of their packagaing.
For those needing more tailored support, Sustainable Food Trade Association is available to help!
Coming soon, companies sharing their stories! Got a best practice to share? Contact us.