April 28, 2023
To stay in line with a 1.5°C SBTi (Science Based Targets Initiative) commitment, Tetra Pak needs to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its own operations and reduce emissions by 46% across the entire value chain by 2030. A lot of work has already been done to reduce internal operational emissions, but 35% of all emissions come from suppliers. To achieve the 2030 goal, Tetra Pak has launched an initiative to inspire suppliers to accelerate their sustainability transformations.
“It includes most of our base material suppliers*, covering 90% of the materials we purchase,” explains Clara Grandry, Sustainability Specialist at Tetra Pak.
The supplier initiative lays out a range of actions for suppliers to work on, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, maximising the use of recycled content, and setting an SBTi Net Zero target.
“For some suppliers, the sustainability initiative is a new way of working, while others are more mature and are already working on some of the same targets as us,” says Clara.
One of the more mature suppliers is Klabin, Brazil’s largest paper manufacturer and producer of paper packaging. Klabin was already recognised by frameworks like Ecovadis and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and has worked to reduce GHG emissions, replant native trees and reintroduce endangered species to their forests for many years, but the supplier initiative was still welcomed.
“By bringing all their suppliers together, Tetra Pak elevates the sustainability discussions and efforts. It helps set a direction for the next steps – and pushes us all to aim higher. We’re all in on this journey together,” says Henrique Luvison, Klabin’s Manager of Environmental Responsibility.
According to Clara, the initiative opens up a new dimension to Tetra Pak’s relationship with suppliers. The targets are purposefully challenging to raise ambitions, but to help suppliers stay realistic, all targets are science-based.
“Sustainability targets should be science-based before anything else because they remind us of our planet’s physical limits,” says Clara.
“Science-based targets help make sure that we’re making an actual difference and helping in the fight against global warming,” says Henrique, who believes that specificity in targets is also key.
We’re working on many biodiversity initiatives, for example, and have been for a while. But with the supplier initiative, Tetra Pak is reframing the question and not just asking what we’re doing, but going a level deeper and asking, ‘What is the positive impact of these actions?’” says Henrique.
Since 2015, Tetra Pak has been carrying out annual data collection. Through an online platform, suppliers can enter their raw energy use data for a specific production site, and based on this, Tetra Pak calculates the GHG emissions for each supplier and the materials purchased from them.
“When Tetra Pak launched the supplier evaluation, we started to think about our role in the supply chain. “It’s like Tetra Pak is leading this chain, saying, “Let’s all aim as high as we can,” and getting all the suppliers to walk the same path,” he says.
While the suppliers have the same goals, they’re at different stages of their sustainability journeys.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. For suppliers just starting, it’s key to create awareness and build knowledge. For more advanced suppliers with ambitious roadmaps, the missing piece is often the commitment to financial investments. By making sustainability such an important part of our supplier agenda, we’re helping them build the case for such investments,” says Clara.
The initiative is now in its third year. During the first two years, Clara and her colleagues collected a lot of feedback from suppliers to find out what was working and what wasn’t working.
“I think a key lesson is that sustainability is complex, especially working across different industries and geographies. It’s a storm of new regulations and standards – and you’re constantly trying to hit a moving target because knowledge keeps evolving and growing,” says Clara.
Going forward, Tetra Pak also intends to encourage suppliers to join recognised sustainability frameworks and organisations.
“Our initiative has already gained a lot of momentum. We’re seeing suppliers invest in renewable energy, replace old polluting equipment, and collaborate on efforts such as land use data. Now we want to push suppliers towards a wider, company-level commitment to sustainability, signing up to initiatives like the CDP,” says Clara.
For Henrique and Klabin, there’s excitement about the future – and a little healthy competition.
“Whenever there’s a parameter where we’re not the best, we want to understand why so we can work even harder. It’s inspiring and motivating because we’re all pushing each other to do even better than we thought possible, learning from each other along the way,” he says.
*Base materials are the materials we use to produce the packaging we sell to food and beverage producers, including paperboard, polymers, aluminium foil and inks.