Amcor offers carbon labels on pack after identifying climate change as consumers’ top environmental concern
18 Jan 2021 --- Consumer packaging giant Amcor is now offering printed “Reducing CO2 Packaging” labels accredited by the UK-based Carbon Trust on a range of flexible packs. The label is designed to inform consumers about the climate change impact of products.
The Carbon Trust awards its reduction label to companies that can prove they have made a carbon footprint reduction of at least 20 percent in a specific product.
The “Reducing CO2 Packaging” label is one of many carbon packaging labels awarded by the Carbon Trust. Currently, other labels can certify a product has either met the benchmark; accounts for CO2 levels lower than the dominant product in its category; or has attained carbon neutrality.
The power of carbon labeling
Silvana Centty, senior manager at the Carbon Trust, speaks with PackagingInsights about the label and the significance for brands like Amcor.
“We know that consumers want more carbon labeling on products. A 2020 YouGov survey, commissioned by the Carbon Trust, confirms a continued high level of consumer support for carbon labeling.”
“The survey results showed two-thirds of consumers surveyed in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and the US support product carbon labels. The same proportion is more likely to think positively about a brand that can demonstrate it has lowered the carbon footprint of its products.”
Gerald Rebitzer, the sustainability director for Amcor Flexibles, also emphasizes to PackagingInsights the importance of carbon labeling to its customers.
“In a study Amcor conducted of 2,500 European consumers, they ranked climate change as their top environmental concern. Additionally, the majority of consumers we surveyed believe in reducing the carbon footprint of packaging is equally important to it being recyclable.”
Centty adds, however, that uncertainty still surrounds the true impact labels have on consumer behavior. Uncovering more information in this area to promote environmental sustainability needs to be an industry-wide effort, she asserts.
“One of the hardest things to generalize and be sure about is how consumers respond to fairly detailed climate information. We need to work together to improve our combined understanding of how consumers respond to this information and what kind of help they need.”
Amcor’s carbon assessment tool
The Carbon Trust’s accreditation of Amcor was made simpler by the existence of Amcor’s pre-existing “Assett” footprinting tool. Amcor’s customers can use this tool to assess the carbon footprint of their packaging and understand potential emissions “hotspots” and reductions.
The Carbon Trust assessed and certified the tool according to its standards. Centty further explains how the tool works.
“The tool measures the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by a product, from the extraction of raw materials to end-of-life in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) to make a carbon life cycle assessment (LCA) of the product under internationally recognized standards.”
“The tool allows for a comparison to be made of the packaging a client has been using against a packaging alternative. If the life cycle assessment quantifies a 20 percent or greater carbon footprint reduction, the new packaging is eligible to carry our ‘Reducing CO2 Packaging’ label.”
The Carbon Trust then conducts product footprint certification for both packaging products, including certification of the carbon reductions achieved, she explains.
The certification duration is two years, and the data for compared products should not exceed this time frame. Assett will be reviewed and certified annually. In addition, CO2 offsets cannot qualify as a reduction.
Amcor is starting with its flexible packaging portfolio, but plans to extend the certification across its businesses, says Rebitzer.
“We have successfully piloted the service within our flexible packaging business in Europe, and the service will expand to other types of packaging and other regions.”
“We chose to start there as carbon labeling is a way for brands to communicate improvements they are making to their packaging – for example, a carbon footprint reduction resulting from switching to bio-based plastics derived from plant material.”
The Carbon Trust’s labels are used by a wide range of well-known brands around the world, including rigid plastics users, however. Certified products include Dyson Airblade hand dryers, Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Volvic and evian mineral water, and a range of Quorn products.
Carbon vs plastics?
While major efforts are being made throughout industry to improve recyclability and end of life disposal, the net environmental impact of packaging, including its carbon impact, remains key.
“Amcor’s focus is on developing packaging to be recyclable or reusable, using lifecycle analysis to ensure the best, most sustainable applications of each solution. Lifecycle assessments are a valuable tool for fact-based criteria to evaluate packaging options, instead of simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’ materials,” says Rebitzer.
However, carbon is not necessarily the best signifier of a product’s life cycle, explains Centty.
“The importance of carbon as a sustainability indicator depends on what issue is being addressed and the product’s or company’s overall environmental impacts.”
“Carbon alone is not a measure of sustainability, and we work with clients on other aspects of sustainability, such as circular business models, water footprinting and zero waste to landfill certification.”
“In the packaging sector, it is important to reduce the footprint of the packaging, but also to innovate, reuse and make that packaging recyclable – closing the loop to transition to a circular economy.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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