How Your Business Can Benefit from the Sustainable Working Methods that are Changing the Packaging Industry Landscape

As the packaging industry moves towards more responsible ways of working, our team at Bonus Trading, a packaging supplier based in the UK, decided to interview one of the leaders in our industry, UPM Raflatac.

UPM Raflatac works hard to create sustainable practice within their workforce and ensure responsible working methods, and by discussing some of the ways they do this, you can learn how to improve your business too, to offer a better service for your customers and even save money.

For packaging suppliers all over the world, including ourselves, we think looking at the way UPM Raflatac work is key to developing the industry in the right way so that we have a sustainable future, but these concepts and sustainable business practices are applicable to a nearly all industries.

Want to improve your business and turnover? These highlights from some of UPM Raflatac’s best practise will help you learn how those on a small business scale, such as ourselves, can emulate their conduct.

Find out how you can do the same to make your business not only more responsible, but more efficient and cost-effective too.

UPM Raflatac began by explaining some of the main ways they work sustainably and therefore responsibly:

Responsible actions start from the beginning. We have a responsible sourcing framework to ensure that our material comes from legal and responsible sources. Our factories and terminals have managements systems (ISO 14001 and ISO 9001) and targets of minimising pollution, energy, water, waste and air emissions. Our ecodesign approach considers the environmental impacts of our products throughout their life cycle and new innovative resource efficient products are continuously being developed.

The biggest environmental challenge of self-adhesive label industry is waste – whether it is start-up, matrix or liner waste. Our RafCycle™ is a recycling solution for the by-products generated throughout the entire lifecycle of self-adhesive label stock. With the RafCycle™ concept we provide a more sustainable end-of-life for used release liners and label by-products and give a new life as graphic paper, UPM ProFi® composite material and energy.

Whilst smaller label and packaging suppliers such as ourselves may not be able to offer a similar service and give new life to our waste and our customers’, we can certainly aim to limit waste production and resource usage, also thus making our process more efficient and cost-effective.

For instance, we can work to make more innovative products, utilising resources more efficiently and improving the production process all along the management line. Along with this, we can also make usage of the following more efficient:

  • Lighting – switch to energy efficient light bulbs
  • Water – minimize the water used in production and throughout the factory, you can fit water saving tap filters that reduce water usage by a considerable amount or fit spring-release taps to reduce water usage when washing hands
  • Paper – Encourage staff to use only one paper towel rather than multiple, or fit energy efficient hand driers
  • Limit packaging waste where possible – this can be done by making manufacturing more efficient throughout all stages of the production process
  • Where packaging waste is unavoidable, ensure it is recycled properly and transported efficiently

Not only is this responsibility to the environment part of a good work ethic, efficiency just makes business sense – and sustainable working is fast becoming a core trend in the packaging industry as others realize the power of its potential.

Our responsibility to waste prevention means that producers are moving towards thinner and lighter materials that have the same functional properties but smaller environmental impact. For example, our RAFNXT+ paper range and PP Lite filmic range consists of thinner and lighter face and liner materials which are more efficient at the printing house and have also lower environmental impact.

Another core trend is that many brand owners now have targets for purchasing certified fibres. This is a visible trend in the industry and also high in our agenda. UPM Raflatac supports both FSC and PEFC forest certification schemes that ensure responsible forestry practices, and we’d like to see this become the industry standard. In 2016, UPM Raflatac had over 900 FSC or PEFC certified products and our target is that 100% of our fiber will come from certified forests by 2030.

In addition to better working methods, there is also a move to create recyclable packaging, to once more reduce waste wherever possible.

A key responsibility trend is designing recyclable packages, fuelled by the packaging regulation and policy of Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR). This is truly a multi-stakeholder process where different parties of the package value chain need to be present because the recyclability of packages is dependent on the chosen packaging material, label material and available recycling route specific to the country. 

For example, at UPM Raflatac we introduced a totally new solution – a labeled, recyclable can for the craft beer market – as an outcome of a cooperation project between craft brewery, a can recycler, a printing company and ourselves.

But their sustainable working doesn’t just benefit the company:

The sustainability approach is also beneficial for customers and brand owners. For UPM Raflatac, this means they can trust that our sourcing is responsible and products are safe which mitigates their business risks. Ecodesigned products help customers and brand owners to reach their sustainability targets and choose more sustainable products for their purposes.

For example, many brand owners have targets for certified fibers, recycled content and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that our eco-designed products can support. Also, waste is high on the agenda for many companies in which RafCycle™ can support customers and brand owners to have sustainable recycling solutions implemented.

Bonus Trading spoke to the Senior Sustainability Specialist at UPM Raflatac, Noora Markkanen about the value she has seen the sustainable working methods have on the business:

Our work holds great power to influence our internal and external stakeholders, by sharing knowledge about sustainability and helping them make sustainable choices. The value of working responsibly benefits not only the environment and society but also the business. It can bring cost reductions eg. through efficient waste handling, the competitive advantage of the capability of answering the brand owner needs and also marketing value for the brand image.

My responsibility is to make change happen by sharing expertise and best practices and promoting sustainability in a transparent way within the industry.

Noora encourages others in the industry to promote and share sustainable working methods to help improve the quality of business to come. That way, we can look forward to a future where businesses work with the world in a way that means we will be able to produce and reuse for hundreds if not thousands of years to come.

We’ll end on one final comment from the team at UPM Raflatac, on how we as small businesses need to move forward in sustainable working:

Sustainability is a complex topic and usually there is not one correct answer, but we’ve seen an increasing number of brand owners – and also consumers – becoming more aware of the global challenges such as resource scarcity, climate change and waste problems.

Ultimately, society and the market defines what our direction will be and how fast we have to move towards more sustainable packages. But while the word is spreading to our stakeholders slowly but surely, it’s clear to see that responsibility is also just good business, as well as offering a great opportunity to tell the story behind the company.

Choosing raw materials from responsible sources that fit for the purpose, down-gauging where possible, finding new innovations, designing packages from holistic eco-design perspective and minimising waste within the product lifecycle, all can help you focus on finding ways to support a circular economy and making more sustainable choices for your business.

Learn More about Sustainable Packaging