October 25, 2023

What does it take to put together a sustainability report for a global company like Tetra Pak? Tetra Pak has been reporting on environmental performance since 1999, but with the evolution of reporting and upcoming regulations, reporting today is more complex and encompasses environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects.  

After the release of the 2022 Tetra Pak Sustainability Report, Lisa Ryden, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility, sat down with two of our employees - Alice Ahlinder, Junior Supply Manager and Gustav Sundström, Associate Product Manager, from our Future Talents Programme – to talk about some of their favourite highlights and areas for improvement.

Lisa is responsible for Tetra Pak’s social sustainability efforts, and she also oversees ESG reporting, including the content for the Tetra Pak Group sustainability report. The discussion between the three also presented the perfect opportunity to see how future sustainability reports could be further developed and improved.

portrait of 3 Tetra Pak employees

Gustav Sundström - Associate Product Manager, Lisa Ryden - VP of Corporate Social Responsibility and Alice Ahlinder - Junior Supply Manager

A holistic approach to sustainability reporting 

“The first thing I reflected on is that this report shows a more holistic approach to sustainability. I think it’s important to get a complete picture of our efforts, and it speaks to the many ways we can have an impact,” says Gustav. Lisa adds: 

“I’m glad you noticed that because it’s a big change. The report used to be a list of achievements, but we’ve been working a lot on adding a structured framework and context to each of the topics we cover in the report – and the role of Tetra Pak. Climate and recycling of packaging are topics we have been working on for a long time, but water, biodiversity and human rights are examples of topics we’ve only recently introduced in a structured way.” 

To Alice, who works with supply management, it’s also clear how interconnected the sustainability areas are and how they are considered together in most parts of Tetra Pak’s business. 

“It’s important that we don’t foster a silo mentality because the sustainability issues in the world are interconnected, and the solutions also need to consider this interconnectedness,” says Lisa.  

The holistic approach has become a crucial part of sustainability reporting, especially with the  European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) which are intended to boost the quality, transparency and comparability of corporate sustainability reporting. But as Lisa explains, it’s challenging and takes time to implement properly. 

“It requires us to have a consistent approach across ESG topics in how we define strategies, actions, KPIs and targets. It’s true that we’re more mature in some areas like climate – which is great. But the challenge is now for all of us to broaden our understanding of sustainability and manage our impacts, risks and opportunities across many topics,” says Lisa. 

robot hand holding a tomato in a factory

Setting targets at the risk of facing criticism 

“It’s great that we’re sharing progress and targets in sustainability areas where we’re maybe not as mature yet as a company. It’s brave as it allows others to challenge us. I think it’s essential to be transparent and have a growth mindset so we can get feedback, learn and continuously improve,” says Alice. And Gustav agrees:

“That’s so true. Companies may hesitate to set targets as they risk facing criticism if those targets are not reached. But you have to aim high and put yourself out there to learn – and to inspire others.” 

Stepping up on the social sustainability scene 

One of the areas that Gustav is most interested in is social sustainability. 

“It’s exciting because it’s charting the impact on people across our value chain. We’re looking at everything from the impact of the extraction of raw materials for our base materials to the working conditions of waste collectors,” says Lisa.

And an essential part here is local context.

“The risks to people and violation of human rights vary a lot in different parts of the world and different industries, and we need context-specific responses. Another key element is prioritisation, as it’s impossible to work on all issues everywhere. We take a risk-based approach and use standardised criteria based on the severity of impacts to define our priority issues,” says Lisa.

little girl in the philippines

Room for improvement – and more context 

As talk turns to areas for improvement, Alice zooms in on women in senior positions where Tetra Pak this year reached 22%. 

“That percentage is not very impressive. Especially through the eyes of my generation, we expect to see more women in senior positions. But maybe compared to the average in the industry, that number is encouraging. So It would be good to add statistics for comparison in the report,” says Alice. 

Gustav agrees with Alice’s point on gender equality. He also notes how percentages are preferable to large figures when reporting on sustainability.

“Sustainability reports show many numbers, but it can sometimes be difficult to know what they mean. I would like even more context. 84% renewable energy consumption in our operations is easy to understand, but I might not grasp the level of impact of 131 kilo tonnes of CO2 saved by using more plant-based plastic. Comparative figures could also be beneficial to include,” he says. 

“I’m happy that we increased our percentage of women in senior positions this year, and I hope we’ll see that trajectory continue in the next report,” says Lisa. “The comparisons are also an interesting idea that we’ll be looking into,” says Lisa and concludes:

“It’s a journey. In some areas, we’ve come a long way; in others, we certainly have more to do. Alice and Gustav – thank you both so much for sharing your thoughts on the latest sustainability report. It’s so important that we get all of our employees engaged in our work so we can keep pushing forward together.”

African school children in classroom drinking milk

Top 3 highlights

1. Feeding millions of schoolchildren around the world

“The school feeding programmes really stood out to me. I didn’t realise that 66 million children in 44 countries participated in the programmes. As a Swede, I find those numbers incredible. It’s more than six times the Swedish population,” says Alice. Gustav points out that it’s a good example of an initiative that has an immediate impact. “You don’t always see the instant effects of your daily work, so it’s nice to see the immediate difference the school feeding programmes make in people's lives. It also comes back to the holistic approach because not only are we delivering nutritious food to children – it also helps increase school attendance. I think all these synergies are so exciting,” he says.

2. One of only 25 companies to receive a CDP Forest Disclosure A score. Also received a CDP Climate A score.

“A CDP A score is very impressive as it is a comprehensive mechanism. We all need to contribute on climate efforts – and forests are such a crucial part of our ecosystem and a big part of our company's impact. So it’s good and important that we’re working to manage forest-related risks as sustainably as possible – and that we’re doing it well,” says Alice.

3. Taking back, renovating and refurbishing processing and packaging equipment

“It’s a great way to save on parts and keep equipment in use for longer, and I think we need to remain innovative and keep building on models like these,” Gustav says.

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Tetra Pak Sustainability report FY23 front cover

Tetra Pak Sustainability Report

Our Sustainability Report provides a comprehensive picture of how we collaborate across the globe to contribute to the sustainable development of our industry.

Woman in field with notepad

Sustainability performance data

See how Tetra Pak performed on key indicators for FY 2023, including sourcing, recycling, climate, energy, diversity and water, from our ESG performance.