Sealed Air Proves a Packaging Company Can Make An Impact

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If you’ve purchased anything from Amazon recently, Sealed Air probably kept it safe on its way to your home. The packaging company — maker of those, you guessed it, sealed air products — has a big reach. The company has approximately 24,000 employees globally and is present in 62 countries with a sales and distribution network in over 175 countries.

A company that large has a chance to make an impact when it comes to sustainability. And it does, as its 2014 Sustainability Report shows.

Last year, Sealed Air developed what the report describes as a “more strategic approach to sustainability.” In addition to traditional water conservation and greenhouse gas reductions, Sealed Air’s products themselves reduce waste by extending shelf life and providing a low-impact way to protect products en route.

As the company’s president and CEO, Jerome A. Peribere, wrote in report’s opening letter:

“I believe we no longer sell packaging; we sell increased shelf life. And this shelf life provides access to healthy food and reduces waste, which in turn contributes to increased food security and environmental benefits. We no longer sell cleaning products; we sell hygiene … We no longer sell packaging that simply delivers what consumers buy. We sell product security.”

To this end, many of the company’s goals for 2020 reach far beyond its four walls: increasing food security, promoting resource conservation and health and wellness, and helping others in their supply chain reduce waste.

Of the company’s broader conservation goals, Ron Cotterman, VP of sustainability, told 3p that targets relating to waste reduction, resource conservation and food security are not only the “most straightforward [route to sustainability],” but these goals also “directly relate to cost savings.”

Sealed Air also goes “one step further,” as Cotterman put it. The company has set additional goals related to the benefits that its products and solutions have on society. Cotterman believes these additional goals “differentiate Sealed Air within our industry while illustrating tangible and real examples of how we realize our vision ‘to create a better way for life.’”

Every push for sustainability has some sort of impetus, because nothing happens in a vacuum. In Sealed Air’s case, the impetus for creating a more strategic approach started when Jerome Peribere began as the new CEO. He saw a need to rebrand the company and focus on its core values. Part of the rebranding included creating a new mission and vision.

As Cotterman said, “He quickly came to understand the value that we create for our customers to help them meet their sustainability goals.”

Strategic approach to supply chain emissions

Sealed Air’s approach to strategic sustainability began with a pilot study of its Scope 3 GHG emissions (those that come from the company’s supply chain). The pilot examined the impact of the company’s GHG emissions, including its Scope 1 and 2 emissions (operational and energy emissions). The study revealed some surprises. The impacts of the company’s Scope 3 emissions is significantly larger than its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. In fact, the company’s supply-chain emissions represent almost 98 percent of its total GHG emissions.

The largest source of emissions within Scope 3 is customer use of the company’s products. So, reducing energy and GHG emissions for its customers’ operations through innovative products “can have a significant influence on overall environmental impacts,” Cotterman explained.

The pilot study was “significant,” in Cotterman’s words; it showed the company where and how to prioritize its efforts to reduce environmental impact. It made the case for a focus on product innovations and environmental impact throughout the supply chain. The company is doing more work to refine its Scope 3 estimates and to quantify the sustainability benefits it delivers to its customers.

2020 sustainability goals and the SmartLife approach

Sealed Air’s 2020 Sustainability goals include:

  • Reducing the energy intensity of its operations by 25 percent
  • Reducing the GHG intensity of its operations by 25 percent
  • Reducing the water intensity of its operations by 25 percent
  • Diverting 100 percent of its product and process waste from landfills

The company’s SmartLife system will help it reach its 2020 Sustainability goals. While the details of SmartLife are proprietary, the sustainability report explains, “It plays a critical role in our sustainability strategy.”

The system centers around three main categories: driving growth, conserving more and improving lives. Cotterman cited hotel linens as an example. Hotels can “significantly” reduce energy use associated with washing linens by using lower temperatures. Using lower temperatures also increases the life of the linens, often up to 50 percent. In other words, energy use is decreased and money is saved.

Soap for Hope is a simple program that saves lives and reduces waste

Every year, over 7 million children die from diseases that are preventable with handwashing. Just simple hygiene and a bar of soap can save the lives of children. Enter Sealed Air’s Soap for Hope program, which operates in 11 countries and 17 cities.

The objective of the program is to save lives while preventing waste, and it’s one of several programs outlined in the company’s sustainability report. The program is simple: Soap from area hotels is recovered and taken to a local site where it is reprocessed. Then, the reprocessed soap, which is completely hygienic thanks to being reprocessed, is taken and distributed to communities in need. Over 120 hotels participate in the program and there are over 160,000 people every year who benefit from it by obtaining free soap.

Stefan Phang, Sealed Air’s regional sustainability director, started the program. Phang initially thought the program would just consist of working with a few hotel partners in Asia to prevent their used soap from going to the landfill while helping meet hygiene needs in their respective communities. But it became apparent that the program could help many communities.

“Through an innovate approach to partnering with customers and local communities, [Phang’s] program quickly has become a living example of creating a better way for life by creating shared value,” Cotterman said.

Sealed Air has received awards for the Soap of Hope program. Recently, the program, which first launched in Cambodia, was recognized by being named the winner of the CSR Impact category in the 2015 Asian CSR Awards held in September in Bangkok, Thailand. Soap for Hope was among 134 entries from 12 countries that competed for the CSR Impact Award.

By working throughout the supply chain, Sealed Air extends its positive impact where it is needed most.

Image credit: Sealed Air

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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