This impacts us all
The difference between sustainability and other business challenges is that it’s personal. It impacts us. It impacts our families. And, above all, it impacts the planet for future generations.
It’s a point that Anke Hampel made at the outset of the highly engaging presentation that gave an idea of the scale of the challenge – and the practical building blocks that Tetra Pak has put in place to tackle it.
With two children, Hampel is acutely aware of her responsibility to ensure that there’s a planet worth passing on. “It’s a topic that’s very close to my heart,” she says. “I have two sons, aged 14 and 17, and I do want to make sure they look forward to the future.”
Food for thought
As one of the world’s leading food processing and packaging companies, Tetra Pak’s reach and influence are broader than most. It’s why the actions they take are scrutinised so closely. With the global food system making up 26% of the planet’s total greenhouse gas emissions, the onus is clearly on the industry to lead the pack.
Tetra Pak is rising to the challenge.
“Sustainability has been at Tetra Pak’s core since 1951,” says Hampel. “And it presents one of the pillars of our strategy 2030. This is what our future depends on – the ability to provide safe and environmentally sound products to our consumers.”
Drawing on a statement by the company’s founder, Ruben Rausing, who famously declared that “A package should save more than it costs”, Tetra Pak’s ambition in the modern era is a simple one. Namely, creating the world’s most sustainable food package. One made from responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials, and an entity that is itself fully recyclable and carbon neutral. All of which is more easily said than done. But eminently achievable given Tetra Pak’s commitment to working with partners and suppliers throughout the value chain.
Tetra Pak’s Strategy 2030 has four main pillars, one of which is leading the sustainability transformation towards a low-carbon circular economy. Where others are beginning their own scope 3 journeys from a standing start, Tetra Pak has already hit the ground running. Its scope 3 emissions have been reduced by 19% since 2010.
The heart of the challenge
The figures presented by Hampel illustrate both the scale of the problem and the areas in which procurement can have the greatest impact. In this instance, raw materials and transportation – which make up 41% of Tetra Pak’s value chain emissions – present both the biggest stumbling block and the greatest opportunity.
“This is where procurement has to have the biggest impact,” she says. “This is where the focus is and I decided back in 2020, along with my sustainability team, that we need to set a 50% reduction target.”
The other major concern is the impact of solid equipment, which makes up 49% of those value chain emissions. This is another area that Tetra Pak is intent on reducing by 50% by 2030. However, Hampel admits that this particular element is even more problematic than bringing down the 41% figure from raw materials and transportation.
Critical to this is supplier engagement. By establishing a 2019 baseline with their suppliers, both parties now have a figure from which they can judge just how far they’ve come in the intervening period.
This alignment is crucial. “A lot of the work in many organisations is done on literature-based data,” she says. “They look at the industry-based data and work on the average because, in the absence of other data, they have to start somewhere. Aligning with suppliers and getting an understanding of what they’re reporting is key to getting started.”
The clock is ticking, too. For Tetra Pak to report reductions by 2030, their suppliers need to have hit that 50% reduction figure by 2029. The Decade of our Lives is getting shorter and shorter.
A long-term investment
If a week is a long time in politics, then eight years is a lifetime in business.
Asking suppliers to make commitments when they don’t necessarily have a contract that covers them for that period of the task takes a giant leap of faith – and sometimes investment from both sides.
Hampel uses the example of flaring – a technique that burns off-gases and prevents them from impacting the atmosphere. And also, the potential of buying clean aluminium from the London Metal Exchange. Each would require a significant investment. But neither would be possible without enjoying significant alignment with the suppliers involved.
As an indication of its commitment to positive and proactive action, Tetra Pak recently introduced its first supplier sustainability awards. “Continuous engagement with suppliers can happen in many different ways,” says Hampel. “Positive encouragement, leading the way. One of the best compliments we have got in this whole journey was someone calling us ‘dangerously ambitious’. I think that’s great. We need to be ambitious.”
The message is clear: nothing can be achieved in isolation. Partnerships – or in Tetra Pak’s case a “climate commitment package” might be more apt – is essential.