Sustainability has long been at the heart of our business strategy and our operations. It is embodied in our brand promise – PROTECTS WHAT’S GOOD™ – which is brought to life by protecting food, protecting people and protecting our planet.
Our sustainability approach encompasses all three areas. We work with our customers and partners to make food safe and available, everywhere through our innovative and market-leading food processing and packaging solutions. We constantly strive towards safeguarding our own employees and supporting communities where we operate, and protecting the future of our planet and the long-term success of our customers.
Our brand promise motivates us every day as we continue to make rapid progress on a sustainability journey that began many years ago. It’s an ongoing drive that includes helping to ensure food security, securing a responsible value chain, promoting diversity and inclusion, contributing to a low-carbon circular economy, and more.
Our brand promise also ensures that sustainability remains an integral component of the decisions we make, and the actions we take, right through the value chain. To help those decisions, we are guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a common framework for organisations across industries to work together for a better future. This guidance builds on our ongoing commitment to the UN Global Compact, to which we have been a signatory since 2004.
Additionally, we leverage our biannual materiality assessments, which help us identify and prioritise those aspects of our business which have the greatest positive stakeholder impact. This report is a key means of sharing our approach and our progress in meeting our goals, continuing our history of sustainability and environmental reporting that extends over more than two decades.
As we reflect on last year, we must necessarily begin with the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented event that has affected, and continues to affect, communities worldwide. In this context, our commitment to protecting what’s good has never been more vital – and our sense of purpose has never been stronger. Throughout this crisis, our priorities have been to protect people – keeping our own employees safe and those of our customers and other stakeholders – as well as to protect food, by helping our customers maintain continuous food supplies.
The full impact of COVID-19 is yet to be seen and it will take a while for normalcy to resume. But our commitment towards sustainability will continue, and our investment will remain at the same level, as we continue forging ahead in this area.
As the leading provider of processing and packaging solutions, we are mindful of our responsibility to address the challenges faced by our industry as a whole. We have a long history of working in partnership with our customers and other stakeholders to that end, helping drive positive change in the sustainability arena. We believe the need for concerted action is particularly urgent today.
Over the course of 2019, we saw awareness and expectations around the environment reach a new high, among customers, consumers, media, NGOs and regulators alike. Taking a broad view of the world’s environmental challenges, we see three focus areas.
The first is to address climate change, where we as an industry need to minimise the overall impact of our products and operations on the climate. This has been in sharp focus with various legislative initiatives, such as the European Green Deal.
The second is to advance the circular economy, which includes eliminating waste and ensuring end-of-life use for packaged products. Again, this is already being driven by legislation around the world, with a strong focus on single-use plastics. The third is to protect biodiversity, an issue that has been highlighted by the recent wildfires in Australia, Brazil and California.
All three areas are key to initiatives that we have been pursuing for some time. In fact, they are inextricably interlinked. In addressing climate change, we cannot ignore the materials sector and the role that packaging can potentially play. Nor is it enough to focus only on “reduce, recycle and reuse” when promoting circularity: we must take into account the climate impact of the materials that are used in the first place. Consequently, we believe in a low-carbon circular economy that drives a shift from high-carbon, fossil-based materials to low-carbon, renewable materials, which can also help to protect biodiversity.
This is why our view is that the ideal package of the future should be made solely from renewable or recycled packaging materials, 100% recyclable and supportive of a low-carbon circular economy.
In 2019 we accelerated our efforts towards this goal, restructuring our developmental initiatives and significantly ramping up our R&D budget. We are already making great progress. For example, we are the first packaging company to launch paper straws in Europe. We are also now beginning a field test of our first ever aseptic package with an alternative to the aluminium barrier. Our goal is to field test an aseptic package made fully from renewable sources by 2022.
To complement our packaging innovations, we are also driving resource efficiencies with our Equipment and Services, focusing on minimising water use, food waste and carbon footprint in our customers’ operations, helping them on the journey towards achieving their own sustainability targets.
In parallel with this important development work, we have continued our efforts to enhance sustainability across the value chain. That means ensuring our own operations are a global benchmark, driven through initiatives such as World Class Manufacturing and investing in renewable power and “green buildings”.
Furthermore, it includes our supply chain, where we work with our suppliers to promote renewable materials, minimise emissions and protect biodiversity and fresh water. To help further these aims, in partnership with our long-term supplier Braskem, we became the first company in our sector to obtain Bonsucro Chain of Custody certification for our plant-based polymers, ensuring full traceability from plantation to product.
We also work closely with our customers, providing them with the solutions they need to achieve their own sustainability ambitions, such as maximising production efficiency and minimising energy use, waste and emissions. Through partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, we drive collection and recycling – a key enabler of a low-carbon circular economy. In 2019, we helped forge a number of key partnerships to further develop recycling and circularity, including the innovative 3R Initiative and the 4evergreen alliance, in addition to various local initiatives in the countries that we operate in.
A particularly notable result of all these efforts is our progress towards achieving our main 2020 climate goal: to cap emissions at 2010 levels despite business growth. In fact, we are ahead of our target and have actually reduced total emissions by 13%. Looking to the future, we want to ramp our efforts further with an even more ambitious goal: to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in our own operations by 2030, with a similar ambition across key areas of the value chain by 2050. We strongly believe that tangible steps such as these are necessary to ensure that we drive growth while minimising the impact on the planet.
As mentioned in the beginning, our sustainability approach extends beyond the environment. It also includes protecting food, which is expressed in our vision as “We commit to making food safe and available, everywhere”. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, that vision is more important than ever. But the way we go about delivering it is changing, due in particular to the rise of digitalisation and connectivity. These trends offer new opportunities to make food safety and quality even better, while increasing production flexibility, efficiency and sustainability.
In addition, we have long worked to increase the world’s access to safe food. For decades, we have participated in the development of school feeding and nutrition programmes, working with partners worldwide. In the last year alone, these initiatives reached some 68 million schoolchildren, not only delivering improved nutrition and better educational outcomes, but also supporting local agriculture and promoting economic development. More recently, we have developed our Dairy Hub model to secure a long-term supply of locally produced quality milk, without increasing the cost of collection, and helping to improve the livelihoods of many thousands of smallholder farmers.
Finally, we are committed to protecting people. That includes our own employees, by providing a dynamic and productive workplace, with adequate opportunities for learning and development.
Equally importantly, it means driving diversity in our workforce and fostering an inclusive culture, through several actions encompassing training, recruitment and talent development. It also includes protecting the communities where we and our suppliers operate, working in partnership to ensure that human and labour rights are respected, driving transparency and active communication across the value chain.
While we have made significant progress in protecting food, people and planet, we aspire to do much more. That is why, for example, we have set out such an ambitious new climate goal and ambition, which is a reflection of our sustainability commitment. First, to lead by example, through our own activities, innovation and expertise. And second, to lead through partnership.
In 2019, we launched our new Strategy 2030, which will guide our company over the next decade. One of its central pillars is to “Lead the sustainability transformation”, which comprises two goals: “Lead with low-carbon circular economy solutions” and “Enhance sustainability across the value chain”. Again, this is a clear demonstration of our commitment and our ambition, to drive positive change both as a company, and as one of many industry stakeholders. Hence the title of this report, “Enabling transformation”, signifying a new stage of our ongoing journey. I very much welcome your feedback on this report and our performance.
President & CEO, Tetra Pak