Having set its preliminary sustainability goals way back in the early 2000s, Tetra Pak continues to lead the way, further accelerating on its journey to create the world’s most sustainable package...
When in early July, Tetra Pak figured in the prestigious Top 50 Sustainability and Climate Leaders list (of global firms known for their exceptional sustainability initiatives), it hardly came as a surprise to anyone. Going that extra mile and contributing its bit in the battle against climate change is a part of the company’s DNA. The European firm’s core identity today does not only reflect its leadership in the global food processing and packaging solutions industry but also its green practices and promises of more cutting edge environmentally sustainable solutions in the coming years.
Core mantra for green economy
Tetra Pak has picked up a business domain which is niche in a way but, at the same time, intrinsically linked to human needs more than anything else. It is also the fulcrum of Tetra Pak’s global business –making food safe and available everywhere.
When it comes to identifying some of the major contributors to climate change, inadequacies in food processing, distribution and delivery as well as waste at several levels across the supply chain find little mention as opposed to the more obvious suspects such as vehicular emissions and such. However, this is the issue that Tetra Pak addresses through aseptic processing and packaging that allows food to be transported over thousands of miles without the need for cold-chain or preservatives.
According to an estimate, the global food system accounts for 26 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while 8 percent of total emissions are caused by food waste. Though it largely remains an ignored fact, food wastage is the third largest producer of emissions. And with the global population estimated to jump to over 9 billion by 2050 as against the current level of around 7.5 billion, the problem of GHG emissions vis-a-vis food wastage is slated to become graver.
As a responsible corporate, Tetra Pak is actively working towards addressing this critical issue. Protecting food, protecting people as well as protecting the planet is the core mantra driving its efforts in bringing down or controlling emissions. This not only entails following a set of practices at the operational level but also continually innovating to develop increasingly environmentally sound packaging solutions for the benefit of stakeholders across the value chain.
Tetra Pak is aggressively pushing carton packages which are lower on carbon (GHG) impact in comparative terms. Leading food & beverage brands fully recognise Tetra Pak’s commitment and ambition of making future carton packages fully renewable and recyclable, aiding to shape the concept of a low-carbon circular economy – without compromising on food safety.
Tetra Pak has been at the forefront of leading the sustainability transformation of the industry at large, much before it became an actionable agenda for the world in a broader sense (mostly after the Paris Climate Change Convention Declaration in 2014). The company is known for setting, measuring and going after sustainability targets for the past 20 years or more as it had set its first sustainability goals, just at the turn of the millennium in the early 2000s.
With a massive footprint and ability to touch billions of lives in over 160 countries, Tetra Pak is working on time bound targets to redefine the packaging scene across the world. It is pro-actively promoting use of fibre or paper-based packaging and increasing the fibre content in its packaging further from the current 70%.
Having declared a preliminary roadmap, the company also set up a mechanism to measure recycling rates for its own operations. This was followed by setting up the target for switching over to FSC-certified packaging (currently 100 percent of paper used by Tetra Pak is certified by FSC and other controlled sources). In 2009, the company had set a modest emissions-reduction goal at the operational level by 2020 and the externally audited results released last year revealed that it has surpassed this target. Over the last decade, the total emission through its operations reduced by 19 percent even as there was a major double-digit jump in its packaging production, thereby successfully decoupling its environmental footprint from its business growth.
Upping the ante
The company has clear medium to long run goals for taking its emission control drive to the next level. For instance, it has a stated Strategy 2030 programme targeting the twin objectives of leading with low-carbon circular economy solutions and enhancing sustainability across the value chain. On a deeper level, the 2030 strategy has some game changing dimensions. It includes bringing to the market the world’s most sustainable food package– made entirely from renewable or recycled content, fully recyclable and carbon-neutral, without any compromise on food safety. The company also has another ambition of meeting EMF requirements at a scale wherein 95 percent of the carton (both fibre and polyAl) will be recycled, each achieving at least 30 percent recycling rates by 2 billion people globally. The company’s broader target is to be net zero on GHG emissions in its own operations by 2030 (Scope I, Scope II and business travel levels) and to achieve net zero across the whole value chain by 2050. Furthermore, by 2030 Tetra Pak is aiming at sourcing 100 percent of its energy requirement through renewable sources.
In fact, the current decade promises action galore from Tetra Pak. The company is now all geared up to launch a fully renewable aseptic package in 2023.
The good news is: Tetra Pak’s green initiatives across the world are also visible in its operations in India which is a strategically important global market. For over 17 years, Tetra Pak has expanded its collection and recycling footprint in India. Today, this network covers 39 cities and 14 Indian Army contingents supported by over 27 collection and awareness partners, across 23 states and Union Territories. Thanks to this network, over 40 percent cartons packages sold in India are recycled.
However, as a global company with decades of experience in sustainable development, Tetra Pak believes that the conversation around sustainability needs to be elevated much beyond just recycling. “Given the current climate emergency, we need rapid decarbonization now. Literally speaking, we need to take out carbon from every step in the value chain. We need to replace high carbon materials with low carbon materials and decarbonize the energy used during operations,” adds Jaideep Gokhale.
The company is therefore pitching for adequate legislative changes that take a full view from raw material, to manufacturing, distribution and end of life to truly be able to build a low-carbon circular economy.
With a strong sustainability foundation and bold ambitions to lead the sustainability transformation, Tetra Pak is pioneering a sustainable future that protects Food, People and the Planet; protects what’s good.