Tetra Pak supports the use of sustainable raw materials with their “Moving to the Front” campaign

Brian Kennell

Brian Kennell

A message from the CEO of Tetra Pak Inc., Canada & U.S.

As Canada’s elections loom this fall, non-partisan groups such as Ecology Ottawa and the Sierra Club Canada are working hard to make sure that the environment is top-of-mind to all voters, notes a recent article in “The Globe and Mail.” And for good reason given UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s comment that Canada needs to stop stalling on setting climate change goals made during the December UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Peru.

Ban Ki-Moon made his remarks in an interview on CBC News on the heels of Canada’s $300 million pledge to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, saying “It’s only natural that Canada as one of the G7 countries should take a leadership role.” But he believes that there’s more to be done by Canada at home, and advocates that Canada transitions to a climate-resilient economy by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and adopting renewable energy.

Indeed, many hope that 2015 will be the year that Canada takes resolute action to tackle environmental issues. Of particular importance are eight key action items developed at the September Climate Summit:

  • Food security;
  • The role of cities in reducing emissions;
  • Doubling rates of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy;
  • Scaling up public and private investments to meet growing climate change challenges;
  • New mechanisms for pricing carbon;
  • Actions to combat deforestation;
  • Reductions in industrial climate pollutants; and
  • Enhancing developing countries’ capacity to meet climate challenges.

This is an ambitious agenda, but time left to take action is rapidly running out. On Jan. 16, the New York Times reported that a joint analysis from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows 2014 was the warmest year on record since records began in 1880, with the top 10 warmest years occurring after 1997.

And consider the following: A contributing factor to the climate challenge has been the continued strain on our planet’s natural resources required to meet a growing global population and increasing demand for more packaged products and goods. Diminishing resources require more energy to extract and in turn generate more carbon emissions. Depleted natural resources further lead to erosion of natural habitats within which the delicate natural carbon offsets occur.

Although solutions to the eight macro issues noted above will require steady innovation and a long-term perspective, we already have some answers and know-how to address resource scarcity by increasing our acceptance and use of sustainable sourcing and renewable materials—those that can be regrown or refurbished naturally over time, such as paperboard-based packaging or and bio-based plastics made from sugar cane.

Until recently, renewable energy sources held center stage in discussions of environmental recovery. But for businesses today, when improving the bottom line is a requisite, embracing renewable sourcing of raw materials offers clear and tangible benefits—as it helps to align the goals of environmental protection and economic growth.

And government and industry alike need to develop processes ensuring products are designed from the start with the environment and sustainable sourcing in mind. Successful examples include the Canada Green Building Council‘s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and the Forest Stewardship Council’s certification program.

This can help alleviate climate change, facilitate carbon sinks, help preserve local ecosystems and protect biodiversity. Furthermore, embracing renewable resources will lead to a less volatile supply chain. This is critically important as decreasing physical availability and urgent geopolitical issues make our supply of natural resources increasingly insecure

If businesses adopt a circular paradigm that tracks the environmental impacts of their products throughout their entire lifecycles, we can help alleviate climate change and ensure we have enough natural resources to use in perpetuity.

At Tetra Pak, sustainable sourcing of raw materials has long been one of our top priorities. Our packaging is designed to use the minimum amount of materials—without compromising product protection—and renewable materials are utilized wherever possible. As a result, environmental impact throughout the packaged product’s lifecycle is significantly reduced.

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Today our cartons are made on average of 70 percent renewable paperboard—and we are aiming for 100 percent. We have already launched bio-based plastic caps and packaging coating made from polyethylene from sugar cane.

Recycling is a great start, but by itself it does not result in a complete, long-term solution as industries consume finite natural resources to feed, clothe, house, educate and sustain humanity. Supplies of clean air and water are already under pressure, and oil, natural gas and minerals are expected to run out by the end of this century.

The time to act is now. We must focus on sustainable sourcing and increase use of sustainable raw materials and renewable resources. We do this not only for the future of our society, but also for the future success of our businesses.

Tetra Pak has made its commitment to sustainable raw materials a cornerstone of our social responsibility with our Moving to the Front campaign, intended to spark dialogue and drive action within our industry and to increase understanding about the importance of addressing resource scarcity. We have authored a white paper on this topic in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Join the conversation, support our campaign and start Moving to the Front to help protect our society and businesses for future generations.
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Brian Kennell is president and CEO of Tetra Pak Inc., Canada and U.S. His leadership focus is on driving development and growth through superior product quality, sustainability efforts and customer service. Tetra Pak is the world’s leading food processing and packaging solutions company. Further insights are available at DoingWhatsGood.ca.