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Iago Candal, director de Innovación y Diseño de DS Smith Iberia

When it comes to sustainability, DS Smith has come a long way. In the words of DS Smith Iberia’s Director of Innovation and Design, Iago Candal, the company’s commitment to sustainability translates into a cross-cutting strategy that not only encompasses its packaging solutions, which we will be able to see in situ at Hispack. In his words there is a firm commitment to the development of the circular economy, both in the products they develop and in the training of employees in this area. Candal brings us some of the projects they are carrying out to reduce their environmental impact and actively promote zero carbon emissions.

Sustainability is at the heart of DS Smith’s business model. What are the company’s sustainability objectives?

Through our ‘Now and Next’ sustainability strategy at DS Smith we are pursuing five main sustainability objectives divided into two phases, one in the immediate future “Now” and one in the medium term “Next”.

Firstly, we are looking to close the loop through better design, so we have set a target that all the packaging we produce by 2023 will be 100% reusable or recyclable and that by 2030 all our packaging will be recycled or reused. We are also working to reduce waste and pollution, with a goal of removing one billion problem plastics from supermarkets by 2025. In addition, by 2030, we aim to find sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic in all our packaging.

Another of our fundamental purposes is to protect natural resources. To this end, by 2025, we will optimise the use of fibre for each supply chain in 100% of our new packaging solutions. And by 2030 we seek to optimise every fibre in every supply chain. In addition, we are working every day to promote zero carbon emissions. We have therefore adopted a science-based target for 2030 to reduce CO2 emissions per tonne of production by at least 40% compared to 2019 and to reach Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050.

Finally, at DS Smith we consider it essential to train people in the circular economy. And so, we have set ourselves the goal of involving 100% of our employees in the circular economy by 2025 and, by 2030, to transfer this lifestyle to 5 million young people.

To what extent can innovation work to promote and enhance more sustainable solutions?

Innovation is key to achieving more sustainable packaging solutions, and is one of the fundamental pillars underpinning our mission to “Redefine packaging for a changing world”. Our design team works in line with our Circular Design Principles, as the design phase is the exact point where the degree of sustainability of a product can be decided. That’s why DS Smith focuses all our efforts in this phase to help customers identify their needs and objectives to achieve more sustainable packaging through a collaborative methodology. The PackRight Centres are a clear example of our working model; in our 40 certified centres, designers and customer teams work side by side to find the solutions that best suit their needs.

What challenges does the sector face in terms of sustainability?

In the packaging sector, we must continue to work to achieve our sustainability goals, especially at a time when the exponential growth of e-commerce – made even more pronounced by the health crisis – has made packaging a part of consumers’ everyday lives.

Another challenging issue is the search for alternative materials. In 2021, we launched a project to use algae fibres as a raw material for paper and packaging products. In doing so, we aim to respond to the growing demand for sustainable products from customers and consumers. In fact, the company has committed a €116 million R&D package to drive our work on the circular economy. This initiative includes the creation of a new centre for cutting-edge technologies in the UK, the development of new materials to replace plastics and a pilot project to gauge the impact of G-force on home delivery packaging.

Do you think we will ever have 100% recyclable packaging for all packaging?

That is certainly the aim. In fact, DS Smith has set a target that by 2030 all of our packaging will be recycled or reused.

Do you consider that the sector has a real commitment to sustainability improvement processes?

The corrugated industry is circular in nature. As the Spanish Association of Corrugated Cardboard Packaging Manufacturers (AFCO) assures: “Environmental, economic and social sustainability is intrinsic to the paper and board industry because of its sustainable forest management, its clean, efficient and responsible production processes, its leadership in recovery and recycling and its capacity to generate wealth and quality of life”.

At DS Smith we have an absolute commitment to sustainability. This is embodied in our Now and Next Sustainability strategy, with concrete and measurable targets, and in our efforts to help our customers make their packaging more sustainable. To this end, we have developed the Circular Design Metrics, an industry-first tool that offers a unique insight into how companies’ packaging choices can help reduce their impact on the environment. This tool allows you to view and compare the performance of a packaging design across a total of eight indicators, such as recyclability, renewable content or supply chain optimisation, providing a clear view of circularity and helping to identify areas for potential improvement.

In parallel, do you think that customers and society in general are increasingly committed to and demanding sustainable packaging solutions?

Absolutely, customers and consumers are demanding increasingly sustainable packaging solutions that align with their sustainability principles. According to a study we conducted in collaboration with Ipsos MORI in 2021, 45% of Spanish consumers say they prefer to buy products that use as little packaging as possible and 32% want that packaging to be plastic-free. They also attach great importance to the fact that these products have packaging developed with recyclable materials (40%) that is made from recycled materials (33%) and from sustainable sources (31%).

Does Spain have a regulatory framework as well as laws and policies in general that favour the development of sustainable packaging?

At the regulatory level, Spain is updating its regulations on sustainability and circular economy with measures such as the Waste Bill or the Royal Decree on Packaging and Packaging Waste. While it is true that there is still a long way to go, we hope that this regulation will drive the implementation of concrete measures that will bring about real change towards a green and zero carbon emissions economy.

Cristina Benavides, Hispack partner