We asked members of Sun Chemical’s Corporate Sustainability Committee to share their insights on global sustainability.
Why is sustainability a priority?
Juhasz: Sustainability is an environmental, organizational and societal imperative that is a key contributor to our future. As an organization, it’s our duty to protect the health and vitality of the planet.
Moving forward, the products our customers require will increasingly include sustainability characteristics to meet consumer and brand owner demands. Most brand owners are prioritizing sustainability to enable delivery on their environmental commitments. Sun Chemical sits in a unique position within the value chain and can provide valuable products and guidance to packaging converters to help them provide sustainable solutions to the brand owners they serve.
Maguitman: What we do as a company is crucial because as a region, Latin America is a few years behind the push for sustainability in terms of regulations, and in general, Latin American countries follow European and North American regulatory frameworks. While most of our competitors are sourcing their raw materials based on current local regulations, which results in utilizing less sustainable raw materials, we are following the same procedures for material sourcing as the rest of Sun Chemical. This allows us to be prepared and ahead of the curve for when Latin America catches up in terms of regulations.
How is Sun Chemical becoming a more sustainable company?
Juhasz: At Sun Chemical, we use what we call “the five Rs” — reuse, reduce, recycle, renew and redesign — as a way to guide a three-pillar approach to our sustainability efforts, each of which contributes to our sustainability initiatives in a unique way.
The First Pillar: Operations
We have a number of key initiatives in place where we aim to reduce water and energy usage, waste and CO2 emissions in our operational processes and at our manufacturing facilities.
The Second Pillar: Products
We’re constantly looking to enable recyclability, bio-renewability and/or compostability within our product offerings while minimizing packaging weight and complexities. We find this to be especially important for packaging products where our inks, coatings and adhesives contribute to the overall design of the package. Shifting our product offer to the packaging industry toward a more sustainable solution also means working closely with our supply partners to ensure they are providing us with the necessary sustainable raw materials.
The Third Pillar: Cross-Industry Partnerships and Collaborations
These relationships are critical in contributing to sustainability initiatives because they help us understand what the needs and gaps are in becoming more sustainable in particular packaging industries. For example, our partnership with the Association of Plastic Recyclers helps us better understand some of the challenges in successfully recycling PET bottles. This has allowed us to develop solutions that help overcome those challenges in the marketplace.
Why was the Corporate Sustainability Committee introduced?
Holland: By building our Corporate Sustainability Committee comprised of members from different departments in various regions across the globe, we’re fully representing the company and strategically developing initiatives that reflect Sun Chemical’s sustainability efforts as a whole.
With visibility into the entire organization, our committee is more able to accurately track the progress of each goal or benchmark on a global scale to better ensure there is no duplication of efforts. The committee provides the platform needed to be as efficient as we can be in our sustainability efforts.
How does Sun Chemical collaborate within the industry and help brands meet sustainability goals?
Lorenz: As a first step, we must understand how each packaging converter plans to address CPG’s sustainability goals. Many of them have published these goals on their websites. However, we find that many are interested in one branch of sustainability more than the other. For example, some are really interested in recyclability, while others are more interested in compostability.
Some brand owners are also focused on moving from film substrates to paper but require similar barrier capabilities. At Sun Chemical, we work with the packaging converters to help them determine what is feasible to replace in these structures with coatings and how they would need to be applied. We do a similar exercise on customers wanting to move from a laminated to a mono-layer structure, again needing the barrier properties that were used in the previous package.
To allow us to develop new sustainable products, we continuously look at the entire ecosystem, including new technologies that may be coming on stream. Being alert of these technologies, as well as what we’re doing as a company, helps us to better understand how we can respond with additional sustainable solutions for our customers.
Juhasz: Working with cross-industry associations is one of the crucial pillars in our sustainability framework, as collaborating allows us to understand the role that we and our products play in achieving circularity and sustainability. The partnerships we’ve made with our upstream suppliers, co-suppliers, converters and brand owners, as well as downstream waste management companies and processors, provide us with the insights we need to continue enhancing our current products and developing new products to meet consumer demands.
Our ongoing conversations with our value-chain partners provide us with visibility into where we are as an industry currently, allows us to develop targets for the future, and shows us where the opportunities are to bring sustainability solutions.
What sustainability trends are taking off and what areas need more attention?
Holland: There are a lot of statements from brand owners about sustainability goals, but there is not always a clear direction of how to achieve them. At Sun Chemical, we’re able to provide solutions from various angles by working closely with packaging converters in all aspects of package design.
We’re uniquely positioned to leverage our industry expertise to influence current trends and offer practical solutions to packaging converters and their brand owner customers to help them deliver on their sustainability commitments.
Juhasz: We have to consider the end-of-life for a package, which in previous years was not often a factor. When producing our materials as part of overall packaging design characteristics, we must now think about how they are going to be suitable for recyclability and/or compostability themselves, and how they can enable packaging redesigns that are better adapted for recycling and composting processes. For example, flexible film packaging converters are considering ways to reduce the amount of plastic in their structures, whether that’s by taking out layers or by shifting to paper-based packages in certain cases. Sun Chemical brings product technologies (barrier coatings and adhesives) to enable both of these transformations.
Converters are taking this opportunity to really weigh their options to better understand what is best for the product, the consumer and the environment. There is a real need for more detailed lifecycle analysis to confirm that making the switch from one structure to another or from one material to another delivers the expected reduction in environmental impact.
Lorenz: Government pressures are causing a variety of changes and trends to the packaging process. In fact, some countries are starting to mandate the limitations of specific materials. For example, Panama is limiting the usage of plastic in hope of shifting materials to more recyclable solutions. These regulations are important to consider as they vary from region to region and are constantly changing. It should be noted that some regions have different expectations.
Some converters may be behind the curve in terms of sustainability due to the cost of capital investments that are required. However, the pressure brand owners are feeling to adopt more sustainable packaging is really driving the move toward sustainability to better meet consumer needs.
Maguitman: In Latin America, we’re seeing the topic of sustainability is important and customers are interested in adopting sustainable products, but there is a cost factor associated with the change that has to be considered. With this in mind, it’s important that whatever solutions Sun Chemical offers meets both the sustainable needs in addition to being cost efficient.
How do sustainability efforts relate to corporate social responsibility?
Holland: At Sun Chemical, we approach sustainability in several ways and all of it rolls into our corporate social responsibility efforts. From manufacturing and product development, the socially responsible thing to do is to continue identifying what we can change to help minimize waste, reduce emissions and more. Sustainability is not a trend, it’s here to stay and we take this effort seriously. We will continue to drive sustainability initiatives and develop the necessary programs to respond to sustainability needs for the foreseeable future.
For more information, visit sunchemical.com.