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Paradigm shift: The era of companies with a conscience and a commitment has begun. That of purpose-driven brands which, apart from making money, position themselves on issues of interest to their target public and society. And those that are able to explain “why” are also seeking a positive impact with their activity. Packaging, an essential element for connection with the consumer, is acquiring increasing importance in this new form of communication.

Hispack hosted a panel discussion chaired by B Lab Spain, during which the communicational transformation of packaging was addressed by representatives of major brands such as Danone, The Body Shop, the Ferrer laboratories and Quadpack. Each of the experts offered their views on purpose and packaging, two concepts that are closely related.

Chaired by Pablo Sánchez, director of B Lab in Spain, the foundation that promotes the B Corpmovement, currently made up of 5,000 firms known as purpose-driven companies, with the aim of generating a positive impact on society. B Corps are companies that attempt to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy for society and the planet. B Corp membership provides companies with a framework to measure their impact on society.

Participants:

  • Meritxell Escarra – brand and activism director at The Body Shop
  • MartaAnglada – sustainability manager at Ferrer
  • Borja Lafuente – head of sustainability and public affairs for Danone in Spain and Southern Europe.
  • Tim Eaves – CEO of Quadpack
Meritxell Escarra, brand and activism director at The Body Shop, Marta Anglada, sustainability manager at Ferrer, Borja Lafuente, head of sustainability and public affairs for Danone in Spain and Southern Europe, Tim Eaves, CEO of Quadpack and Pablo Sánchez, director of B Lab in Spain

What’s a purpose-driven company?

Meritxell Escarra – The Body Shop

The Body Shop came into being with a purpose, in that its founder, Anita Roddick, created the company to enable the company to have a positive impact on society. We strive to make a fairer and more beautiful world, beyond figures, and to have a positive impact on people, not just our employees, by working with fair trade communities.

Marta Anglada – Ferrer

As a pharma company it wasn’t created with this purpose, but, following a change of management in the organisation four years ago, we discussed what Ferrer wanted to be. We’re a family-run company with a single owner that has an absolute desire to make a positive impact. As proof of the above, we reinvest part of our profits in social and environmental projects. Last year, more than 50% of the company’s profits were reinvested in these kinds of projects. We channel our purpose through three pillars: We’re committed to people and talent, we’re committed to a habitable planet to live on and, finally, we’re committed to social justice. A set of actions and projects are thus deployed in response to this purpose. Our purpose doesn’t concern health or medicines.

Borja Lafuente – Danone

Danone was created 102 years ago. One of our defining traits is that we’re a for-profit company, but we focus our purpose on identifying the best way of making money with the least possible impact on the planet. An economically successful company can’t be successful in global terms if it doesn’t have a positive impact on society. And we also have a clear vocation in terms of healthcare.

Tim Evans – Quadpack

At the outset Quadpack only had financial goals, but we reached a turning point at which we went beyond them. We’d like to continue to improve and we want the improvement to contribute to our environment with the future generations in mind.

How does purpose translate into packaging?

Meritxell Escarra – The Body Shop

Packaging is a challenge; we have to move towards regeneration and not just be sustainable. In other words, we’ve set ourselves the goal of reducing, but we’re aware that we can reuse plastic. We’re also working on the refill system whereby customers can bring their bottles to stores to refill them. A year ago we relaunched this idea, one that’s known as “refill stations” at our stores. 25% of our stores currently have a refill station in Spain and we want to implement one at all our stores by next year. The aluminium used for the refill is also sustainable and PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled, meaning that it comes from production or aluminium waste that’s already been used) and we can make this bottle with it. Aluminium can also be recycled indefinitely. In addition, we have gift packs for which the packaging is made up of fair trade boxes, more specifically from communities in Mexico.

All in all, we believe that we’re on the right track, although there’s still lots of work to do. We want to achieve sustainable packaging and promote the habit of reuse consumption.

Marta Anglada – Ferrer

In our opinion, packaging, especially primary packaging, is also a challenge, because in the pharma sector, a highly regulated and demanding one, we have numerous restrictions on the use of materials.

We know that more than 13% of our impact comes from packaging, without taking into account the waste that stems from the product itself. This is why we’ve developed packaging for good”, a concept that encompasses ten criteria, and to place a product on the market it must meet at least five of these criteria.

Our commitment is to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030, which is a challenge, particularly for our sector. For example, we’re testing primary packaging by shifting from laminates to mono-materials, which are much more recyclable, and we’re also trying out aluminium tubes made from post-industrial waste. Blister is still a challenge, but we’re working with suppliers to explore new ways of moving forward.

Borja Lafuente – Danone

Food safety and quality form part of the A in the company’s ABC and they’re unwaivable demands. We therefore have to think about packaging from a much more rational angle rather than an emotional one.

We tend to demonise certain materials such as plastic without properly examining how we view packaging throughout its life cycle. We’re moving in the direction of recycled plastics.

At the same time, there’s another issue, namely how we can work towards models that enable us to reach the consumer in a different way. In this regard, we’re working on refill models, also linked to glass and tetrapack; we have a mixture of materials and products. So it’s all about understanding the barriers we face and the fact that we’re a huge large consumption company that needs time to make progressive changes. We’ve removed the labels from some formats and we’re working on new ways of packaging our products, but we need time. Co-responsibility on the part of everyone is also required. Sometimes the consumer isn’t aware of the use of packaging and its impact. As companies, we have a responsibility to convey this information to them.

Tim Evans – Quadpack

As we’re a packaging manufacturer, the purpose is transferred to all the areas of the company, without neglecting the fact that packaging has a functional purpose. For example, when we purchased the company in 2012, we set up the Quadpack Foundation to help families in the community, and we also display our commitment in the manufacturing process. The timber we use comes from Ukraine and we send the lorries back with humanitarian aid.

What worries me is the general lack of consumer awareness. With materials that look like plastic but aren’t plastic, consumers don’t know what to do with this packaging, and they may throw it away as plastic when it’s compostable. As an industry we have to focus on the above.

Where is packaging headed? Trends within 2-3 years

Tim Evans – Quadpack

The industry is striving to ensure that packaging has a positive impact. In practical terms, refill will be a trend, as well as the use of different compostable materials, biodegradable ones that don’t lose their mechanical and functional properties. We’ll also see more connected packaging to keep consumers more and better informed.

Marta Anglada – Ferrer

New materials and more innovative proposals from suppliers are becoming more and more common. They’re looking more towards mono-materials, eliminating multi-layer laminates that can’t be recycled. As for secondary packaging, we’re working on the removal of superfluous elements. We can perceive changes in the pharma sector, but at a slower pace than in cosmetics.

Meritxell Escarra – The Body Shop

Brands must make an effort to make things easy and practical. In our case, in the cosmetics sector, we’d like the future trend to be refill and we’re also committed to the “naked product”, with no packaging and a different approach.

Borja Lafuente – Danone

Refill is a challenge, as we’ve done some pilots and the results haven’t been as encouraging as we’d have liked. What’s new is that consumers, especially young people, are starting to demand changes. Another important variable that generates change is regulation, as there’s a law on waste and a royal decree on packaging which, from a more ideological than realistic perspective, have sought to speed up a set of changes we may not be prepared for.

There’s a lack of public awareness and we have work to do to explain how to manage the end of packaging’s life cycle. The work corresponds to the whole value chain and there’s lots of it to be done. In the large consumption world the main criticism we see is that packaging ends up in the wrong place.

The packaging of the future is a shared challenge. Not only for companies, which have a responsibility to launch products with the least possible impact. There’s a general lack of awareness among citizens, the public administration must also get involved and commit itself to changes and legislation in keeping with reality, there’s a lack of dissemination and training at schools and treatment plants are sometimes not prepared for certain kinds of waste. In short, there’s still a long way to go and things must be done in partnership with joint collaboration.

Cristina Benavides, Hispack partner