Global plastic packaging manufacturer Retal’s journey towards more sustainability took a major step forward two years ago with the creation of its new sustainability department, headed by Emmanuel Duffaut, who joined the company in early 2018.
In his role, he said, he defines Retal’s sustainability objectives, strategy and action plan on a global level, in addition to overseeing all sustainability-related issues across all departments, but: “I can count on the strong and positive support of the Retal Board of Directors to address the huge challenges the packaging industry is facing as a whole in terms of improving environmental performance,” he added.
The impact of the plastic packaging industry on climate change is twofold: it not only produces the plastic material used for packaging, but it also processes this into the packaging itself. Measures such as more energy efficiency during production and the product life cycle, and reducing the use of virgin raw material can have real impact. And, as much packaging is recyclable, packaging manufacturers - and their value chain – have a responsibility to close the loop and to transition to a plastic packaging circular economy. An additional advantage to this will be a consequential reduction in the amount of plastic waste that can leak into the environment as pollution. Thus a very visible, non-direct impact can be created.
Duffaut's proposals and actions to actively boost Retal's CSR global performance - with a special focus on climate change action - were clearly set out in the company's first annual Sustainability Report 2018, which described the three-step approach adopted to reduce the company’s impact on climate change. “We have adopted the traditional Measure-Mitigate-Compensate approach to tackle climate change, which is our largest direct environmental impact,” he clarified.
Among Retal's 2018 activity figures and CSR indicators, the Sustainability Report shows the results of the calculation and verification of Retal’s corporate carbon footprint setting the baseline to quantify future mitigation efforts.
As Duffaut pointed out, “Our carbon footprint shows that energy consumption is by far the main contributor to our process GHG emissions, so energy efficiency is crucial to our climate change strategy.
We have already gained the ISO 50001 accreditation at two of our factories and we are now looking at deploying a certified company-wide common energy management system.”
Retal also is moving towards purchasing as much certified renewable electricity as possible, with its Lithuanian, Italian and US factories already sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. In addition, the company has installed solar panels at its factory in Cyprus and at its Lentvaris site in Lithuania.
Duffaut said that the rest of the company’s mitigation effort involves a collaborative effort with customers to design lighter weight products, in order to reduce the amount of plastic resin used, as this contributes more than 80% to the final packaging carbon footprint. “In that respect, through our Circular Economy Strategy, we also intend to increase the use of recycled raw material, which has a much lower carbon footprint than virgin material, not only in Europe in compliance with the SUP directive but also in the rest of our territories," he said.
Transparent and accurate
Retal is also seeking to incorporate climate change into its decision-making process via a transparency and continuous improvement approach. Starting in 2018, the company completed the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a platform created by investors to gain information on the way companies managed their impact on climate change to enable informed decisions to be made. With the results of the evaluation and expert CDP guidance and feedback, the company is able to see how its actions are positively impacting on its position, and what more is required to improve its performance. It also provides a way to provide information about its performance in a credible way to all its stakeholders.
Retal has obtained a B score in its first CDP evaluation corresponding to the “Management band”, above both the European average score and the average score of companies in the plastics sector.
“It is a good result as it shows that we are taking climate change seriously and doing what needs to be done but there is still much to be done to reach the A score, which is our ultimate goal,” he said.
The company also improved its EcoVadis score during the last evaluation, said Duffaut. EcoVadis is a trusted provider of business sustainability ratings, intelligence and collaborative performance improvement tools for global supply chains’ and is widely used as a platform to confirm manufacturers’ abilities to reach high levels of responsible performance across departments.
“We increased our global score from 45 to 51% in our latest EcoVadis evaluation and reached Silver level, partly due to our 60% score in Environment being greatly influenced by our Climate Change action, he noted”
In short, climate change is a global issue that affects everybody and every business, Duffaut concluded.
“It is also our major environmental impact and we have a responsibility to address it. “We are looking forward to further integrating CC in our management and decision-making process to ensure impactful action upstream and downstream to reduce our emissions and provide low carbon footprint products.”
“As global packaging manufacturers, by working transparently and iwith the incredible influence we can have, collectively, we can make a crucial difference in reducing that impact.”