Data access power: Smurfit Kappa highlights supply chain transparency importance in greenwashing fight
20 Mar 2023 --- Inconsistent data access and a lack of supply chain transparency are the key barriers to gaining credibility on environmental sustainability claims, finds a new report by Smurfit Kappa. The findings, drawn from 440 senior business leaders in 11 global economies, show that only 11% of companies have robust sustainability strategies in place.
The report, titled The transparency edge, comes as rising consumer demand, political pressure, new regulatory requirements, and investor expectations are tightening environmental sustainability standards throughout the packaging sector.
Recently, Innova Market Insights pegged “Green but clean” as a top packaging trend for 2023, noting that environmental claims like “carbon impact,” “reduced packaging,” and “plastic-free” on F&B packaging have almost doubled (92%) since 2018.
However, concerns over misleading marketing have also increased among consumers, and legislation against greenwashing has risen internationally, and environmental campaigners say they expect a “lawsuit tidal wave” as a result.
“The purpose is to leave the planet in a better shape than it’s currently in. Now that’s being devolved into target setting, roadmaps, ambitions, and standards that are helpful in monitoring progress. But if we lose sight of what we’re actually trying to do here, then there’s no point,” says Ken Bowles, chief financial officer at Smurfit Kappa.
The report’s research, which was conducted in cooperation with the Financial Times, says “there is only one way to respond” to the changing sustainability landscape: “with clarity, purpose and action. If [companies] do, they will strengthen corporate sustainability and benefit from greater trust among their customers and other stakeholders.”
Findings show 50% of businesses claim to have tangible and ambitious plans to achieve net zero by 2050, 61% say sustainability is changing the way they measure financial performance and 63% have complete transparency on how and why sustainability decisions are made.
However, only one in nine respondents claim to have robust sustainability strategies in place. This group may already be reaping the financial benefits of opting for more environmentally sustainable practices.
“It’s not, ‘Let’s go green and forget about everything else.’ It’s, ‘Let’s continue to be green, and let’s make sure that is against a backdrop of strong financial returns and strong delivery.’ says Garrett Quinn, chief sustainability officer at Smurfit Kappa.
The power of big data
The report shows that many businesses face significant barriers to strengthening corporate sustainability through data and supply-chain transparency. Smurfit Kappa has been gathering sustainability-related data for 14 years, which has been independently assured since 2009.
“We now have a database of 90,000 supply chains, where we know precisely the average transport distance, the carbon footprint, the load efficiency and so on,” says Arco Berkenbosch, Smurfit Kappa’s vice president of Innovation and Development.
This visibility enables Smurfit Kappa to manage its impacts and support its partners to do the same.
“You can help your customer and your supply chain to define feasible and easy first steps based on what has been proven to work in other parts of the value chain,” says Berkenbosch.
“That’s just one example of the power of big data.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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