I’m glad to be one of the Co-chairs of the Global Packaging Project (GPP), because it’s a revolutionary, collaborative effort between retailers and brand owners from around the world to address packaging and sustainability. We’re working together to create a shared language, metrics, and procedures to help all of us make more sustainable business decisions. The GPP is sponsored by the Consumer Goods Forum, an industry group that brings together the CEOs and senior management from 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries, which is truly impressive.
The GPP has more than 60 retailers, brand owners, and packaging material suppliers engaged with the project. Along with my Co-chair, Sonia Raja (Tesco) and many prominent retailers and consumer goods manufacturers, we’re helping the industry align with shared metrics to measure the environmental and social impacts of packaging. What’s fascinating is that what we develop may be the first global program to collaborate on sustainability across the food industry.
Packaging is a great place to start because it’s the first and last thing consumers interact with when they purchase any consumer goods. Likewise, in the food industry, packaging is something most companies have in common. And we realize consumers and governments want to reduce the amount of packaging for products and minimize the amount going to landfills.
In the food industry, getting to work on packaging and sustainability will be a great first step to potentially focus on other aspects of sustainability—and one’s impact across the supply chain. In the food industry, packaging tends to be a smaller part of the carbon footprint, but industry data is much more consistent and available. We have been fortunate to have industry groups such as Sustainable Packaging Coalition, EUROPEN (European Organization for Packaging and the Environment), AIM (European Brands Association des Industries de Marque), and the GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) collaborating on the GPP.
How it will work
Although each company will address packaging within their own internal systems and functions, it is also clear that packaging spans the entire value chain and packaging becomes a shared responsibility for all the trading partners in that chain.
To be able to address this responsibility effectively and efficiently, trading partners need to have a common understanding of packaging and of sustainability. This is what the project has addressed. This project delivers to our industry a common language to enable more meaningful and informed dialogue between trading partners and within industry groups about the relationship between packaging and sustainability.
Underpinning the framework is a set of metrics that ensure that the detailed dialogue between trading partners is based on common terms, measures, and values. For each attribute there is a clear definition, examples, usage guidance, and links to existing industry protocols where existing.
The next stage, already underway, is a series of pilots between companies involved in this project. The pilots are testing the applicability of the framework and the metrics in real business environments. They will help us further refine the metrics and we can share the results with the industry.
Last, the framework and metrics need to become part of the way we do business. So we’ll be creating a call to action for our industry to ensure companies commitment to pilot programs; will help them start the process of internalising the work; and help engage with their trading partners to promote the framework and metrics.
Together, we’re hopeful the GPP will help raise awareness, build collaboration, and change behavior.