Optimizing Natural Capital to Create a Resource-Secure Future

August 1, 2016

Takeaways

New report by Tetra Pak examines barriers of the adoption of renewable materials from sustainable sourcing.

Businesses and governments alike recognize the importance of moving toward a regenerative, restorative economic model, in which resources are endlessly cycled back into supply chains and waste does not exist. Known as the circular economy, this alternative to the “take-make-waste” linear model has been gaining momentum as a viable approach for decoupling economic growth from resource constraints. The business rationale for the circular economy is a compelling one – it represents a trillion dollar opportunity, with enormous potential for economic growth and innovation, while protecting the natural capital and ecosystem services that are the foundation of healthy societies and economies globally.

Adopting renewable materials from sustainable sourcing in packaging is an important enabler and contributor to advancing the circular economy and bringing it to scale. That’s because bio-based materials sourced from plants, trees and marine systems bring crucial innovation to the front end of life cycle and material sourcing. When we pay more attention to the resources that go into how a package is made in the first place, that, along with recycling, can lead us to a circular approach that helps protect precious natural resources and optimize the re-use of products for as long as possible. A new report from Tetra Pak explores opportunities for the consumer packaged goods industry to embrace packaging made with renewable materials, as well as the challenges that must be addressed to move forward with these new practices.

The report, Embracing Value From Natural Capital: Advancing Packaging Solutions that Consumers Want and Companies Can Provide, highlights current understanding of renewable resources across the consumer packaged goods supply chain. It also examines barriers—real and perceived—of the adoption of renewable materials from sustainable sourcing, and level of awareness of the business and environmental benefits of using these materials to tackle resource constraints and enhance long-term growth strategies.

The report identified four factors that impact the 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 that is dependent on more education and information.

To address these challenges and help accelerate the circular economy transition, the report offers four recommendations for industry:

  1. Work toward common understanding of what renewables are. Understanding their true meaning is the first step in recognizing the benefits they provide.
  2. Focus on here and now technologies. Concerns around the complexity of using renewable materials in packaging can be addressed via more awareness of and recognition for the economically and commercially viable options that exist today, like paperboard-based and/or bio-based plastic packaging.
  3. Enhance alignment and increase knowledge sharing among all actors. The more voices that join in, the better our collective ability to refine and promote the business case for adoption as well as educate consumers.
  4. Educate consumers. With consumers, a little knowledge goes a long way, especially as awareness around resource scarcity grows.  When educated and provided with information around specific actions they can take, consumers are responsive and agreeable to doing their part, including adapting their purchasing behaviors.

As we continue to explore solutions that inspire action around increased use of responsibly sourced, renewable materials, dialogues across the consumer packaged goods supply chain will be critical. The collaboration between Tetra Pak and the Chamber Foundation will continue to raise awareness of these issues, convene, and lead on driving business solutions to mainstream the circular economy.