Kirin crowned Japan’s first fully FSC-certified beverage manufacturer via early paper supply initiatives
25 Nov 2020 --- Kirin Holdings is the first beverage manufacturer in Japan to convert all the paper it uses for containers and alcoholic beverage packaging to 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper.
Mercian Corporation was the last Kirin company to join the FSC endeavor. By fully switching its beverage portfolio packaging to FSC-certified paper, the retail wine subsidiary has secured Kirin’s position as the first domestic beverage manufacturer to fully achieve this goal.
Kirin began an initiative to switch to FSC-certified paper containers in 2017, allowing the company to secure a sufficient supply of FSC-certified paper containers and achieve 100 percent FSC-certified paper use this month.
“Since [our] competitors did not start their initiatives until after Kirin did, it may not be easy for them to secure a sufficient amount of FSC-certified paper,” Eri Kikuchi, limited CSV strategy department at Kirin, tells PackagingInsights.
“It will likely take a considerable amount of time for them to achieve 100 percent FSC-certified paper use, so Kirin should be able to maintain its superiority in FSC-certified paper usage for some time.”
Growing demand, limited supply
FSC certification is becoming “more and more common” in Japan, says Kikuchi. According to FSC, Japan holds 1,621 FSC Chain of Custody certifications, ranking seventh globally. It follows closely behind Italy (2,795), Germany (2,356), the UK (2,260) and Poland (2,242).
Alcoholic beverage packaging, in particular, requires a large number of paper containers to wrap and secure the goods, hence also a large amount of FSC-certified paper. However, FSC-certified suppliers that can fulfill demand are limited, says Kikuchi.
Smaller quantities are easier to secure, but because the adoption of FSC-certified paper is spreading rapidly, existing FSC-certified forests are not enough. Consequently, more forests are looking to acquire certification.
“Most of Kirin’s beverage containers are made from coniferous trees in Northern Europe and North America, supplied from forests that do not have any major issues to begin with,” Kikuchi explains.
Exceptions to the rule
The title of being Japan’s first fully FSC-certified beverage manufacturer comes with some limitations. The company’s certified product portfolio excludes limited edition products, small quantities, specially-shaped packaging and imported products.
Sold at an “extremely low volume,” Kirin’s limited edition and small-quantity products have already been manufactured and stocked. “In such a case, it is undesirable to throw those away,” Keiichiro Fujiwara, limited senior adviser, CSV Strategy Department, shares with PackagingInsights.
“Once the stock of these limited edition products’ pre-manufactured paper containers [is used up], we will switch these products over to FSC-certified paper as well.”
Regarding specially-shaped packaging materials, Kirin is faced with a lack of suppliers who can supply the necessary customized FSC-certified paper.
Meanwhile, imported products already bear the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), making it “not worthwhile” to trade like for like.
Youth leads awareness
Wider Japanese society and industry are “very committed” to collecting and reusing paper, says Kikuchi.
The recovered paper collection rate is about 80 percent and the recycled paper utilization rate exceeds 65 percent, which is among the highest in the world, she highlights.
“Although awareness of ethical consumption is currently lower than in the EU, young Japanese consumers are particularly conscious of the environment. We believe that this is a trend that will become more important in the future,” adds Fujiwara.
Going the extra mile, Kirin has also announced that internally, it will adopt FSC-certified paper for its business cards, envelopes and copier paper. “We want to contribute to building a society where paper that does not lead to deforestation is commonplace,” he concludes.
By Anni Schleicher, with Japanese translations by Russell Roll
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