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Ahead of the Pack

An emphasis on sustainability is helping the packaging industry become more eco-friendly and profitable.

hile few corporate executives would argue that sustainable business practices have become an important aspect of operating around the globe, it might be surprising to learn that U.S. packaging companies have made sustainable processes and products an essential part of the industrys corporate culture. Why packaging? For starters, there is a link between the point of production and the point of consumption for billions of consumers. The packaging industrys role in recycling, reusing production components, and reducing the national carbon footprint is enormous. According to U.S. Environ-

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Hexacomb provides custom packaging solutions for a variety of applications, including automotive parts.

mental Protection Agency estimates, packaging and containers make up more than 30% of the total waste in the country, the largest single component of municipal solid waste. At the same time, packaging possesses the highest level of recyclabilityaccounting for 48.5% of all materials recycled. Given those numbers, more and more packaging companies are realizing an added upside to being socially and environmentally responsible. Theres great valueand virtuein using fewer materials and less energy, reusing packaging components, recycling materials, and reusing energy to produce lighter, stronger products that can, in turn, be recycled and reused.

Packaging Solutions
What makes all of this attractive for packaging companies and their customers is the intersection of sustainability and profitability. A recent survey found that sustainability will replace cost as the most important

factor in the packaging industry within 10 years as consumers demand more eco-friendly solutions. But for now and the immediate future, the bottom line still appears to be the main issue for packagers major customers. Customers certainly desire sustainability, but they still view a lower system cost as a priority, says Scott Daniel, president of Hexacomb, a division of Boise Inc. and the leading international producer of custom honeycomb packaging solutions. The biggest challenge we face is being able to meet both lower system costs and sustainability initiatives. The company, which serves customers in over 30 industries as diverse as appliances, automotive, and food and beverage, appears to be achieving both. Hexacomb produces packaging made from paper linerboard, a renewable resource. Substituting this naturally strong, lightweight, honeycomb product for other materials reduces the products weight, and subsequently reduces shipping costs, lessens fuel consumption, and reduces consumption of fossil fuels. Hexacombs solution-based approach to packaging enables the company to customize

Photo by Hexacomb


Advancing Sustainable Packaging in All Directions

We at Bemis Company, Inc., believe the best way to create a more sustainable packageone that delivers maximum effectiveness with minimum environmental impactis to design for the entire value chain.

Thats why Bemis leverages material science to deliver sustainable packaging solutions that preserve freshness, extend shelf life, improve food safety, maintain sterility and maximize throughput. All, while efficientlyand responsiblymanaging the resources we use.

Its a balanced approach that advances society, the package and the customers Bemis serves.

Visit to learn more about our economic, social and environmental commitments. Or connect at
2013 Bemis Company, Inc.


with fewer chemicals, with less water, and with less fiber. Its a way to use fewer resources to get the same quality products. How do you Embed that view into the corporate culture? You have to live it, and you have to make people accountable for the results. We do that by setting goals across all aspects of the company and by measuring the usage of everythingwater, electricity, fiber, and gas. We then review those numbers and measure them monthly against the goals set for the various individuals and departments responsible for them. Weve made sustainability a part of life because we know its a way to save money and make money. A unique aspect of Pratts operations lies in what you call harvesting the urban forest. How does IT work? Paper mills tend to be in the forest, where the trees are, but we realized the need to be close to metropolitan areas where there are a lot of people who consume products and therefore generate a lot of waste. We figured if we could divert that waste from landfills, we could produce a quality product by recycling. We thought, How can we corral all the paper in the streets, which used to go to the Fresh Kills Landfill on [New York Citys] Staten Island, and make it into a useful product? We have a long-term contract with New York City to turn as much fiber as we can into a high-performance linerboard that we ship to different box plants around the country. What challenges is Pratt facing in the coming year? Right now were trying to go even further back in the waste stream because there are still recyclables that are going to landfills. Were trying to divert and capture more fiber and other materials to be recycledsteel cans, plastics, aluminum, and, of course, paperfor their BTU value. We built our first gasifier in our Conyers, Ga., facility in 2009. It produces 100% of the steam for our mill and our corrugator operation and between seven and eight megawatts of the electricity, which is about 40% of our mills energy use. We want to continue our sustainable footprint, get off natural gas, and get off the grid. Were not 100% of the way there, but its a great first step for us.

Brian McPheely CEO, Pratt Industries

Profiting from Sustainability


ratt Industries CEO Brian McPheely is bullish on sustainability for two reasons: It makes sense and it makes money. Here, he explains the companys long-term strategy for recycling and resource efficiency and his goal of getting Pratt facilities off the grid.

Pratt INDUSTRIES has long profited from practicing sustainability. Where do the two intersect? I think youve first got to define sustainability. We look at it as a way to make money, which comes down to recycling. Its what we do every day. Sustainability is also how we run our mills

In a previous life, I was a moving box. Before that, I was a cereal box. Once, I may have even been a fOrtune magazine. now, Ive just delivered dinner.

We believe todays waste is tomorrows opportunity. Every day, we save approximately 51,000 trees, 21 million gallons of water and 3,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Some companies do the green thing. Others do the profitable thing. To us, theyre the same thing.

Sustainable Corrugated Packaging & Display Solutions
FORTUNE is a registered trademark of Time Inc. used with permission. FORTUNE is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, products or services of Pratt Industries.


Pratt Industries converts recycled paper into corrugated boxes at its Valparaiso, Ind., plant.

products that meet customer needs. For example, designers at one of Hexacombs six design centers in the U.S. and Europe developed a replacement for foam packaging that cushions glass bottles of hazardous chemicals. The switch to the honeycomb solution reduced breakage while providing the customer with a recyclable packaging option. Says Daniel: We help our customers meet their sustainability goals by providing a paper-based solution in a custom design that results in reduced freight and reduced material consumption, at ultimately a lower total system cost.

Taking the Initiative

Government and industry organizations, of course, have driven a number of certification programs and sustainability initiatives, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act. Some companies with long-standing social responsibility programs, however, foresaw the wisdom of sustainability early onand on their own.

For many years, Pratt Industries has adopted the triple bottom line philosophy, a framework that measures success across a spectrum of values: economic, ecological, and social. Ive been asked when we adopted the triple bottom line philosophy, but Im not sure we knew what that was when we started doing it, says Brian McPheely, Pratts CEO. We just made it a part of life here because we knew that it was a way to make quality products, and to save resources and make money. (See Q&A on page S3.) The fifth-largest box manufacturer in the country and the largest, privately-held 100% recycled paper and packaging company in the world, Pratt operates three modern 100% recycled paper mills in Georgia, Louisiana, andof all places New York City. There it runs a program called harvesting the urban forest, which collects some 360,000 tons of paper and other materials annually from city buildings and streets and turns it into 100% recycled pa-

Packaging companies are realizing an added upside to being environmentally responsible.

per and corrugated packaging. At the same time, industry attention is moving from a focus on reducing package size and weight to a larger, longer view of the life cycle of products. In the past, the conversation was all about packaging reduction because its visible, says Nina Goodrich, executive director of GreenBlue, a nonprofit that works to provide businesses with the resources to make their products more sustainable. But the conversation has shifted to optimization. If you reduce the package to the point where its not doing its job, then you end up with unintended consequences, such as damage or shorter shelf life. Its important to view the product and the package as a system to avoid unintended consequences. Lifecycle thinking provides insight into the full set of benefits and impacts. Using life-cycle thinking, packaging sustainability can be optimized through sustainable sourcing, efficient material use, and design for recovery. At Bemis Company Inc., a multinational supplier of flexible packaging for food, consumer, medical, and pharmaceutical products, engineers are involved in working closely with customers to develop new sustainable materials and enhanced protective



packaging. The goal is to extend product life, minimize manufacturing waste, and reduce waste in the food distribution chain. Wayne Wegner, director of sustainability at Bemis, is a 35-year veteran of the industry, giving him a rare overview of sustainability. From a bigpicture look, product safety and sustainability best go together by understanding what our customers value, he says. We work with our customers to optimize the package itself, both from the standpoint of effectively ensuring that products are transported and stored for security and freshness and used as intended, as well as using packaging materials to minimize resource consumption. The company currently recycles the majority of its manufacturing waste and has set a goal of

zero waste to landfills by 2020. Bemis also drives sustainability by using the latest polymers and other materials for lightness, strength, and safety. Wegner and his fellow engineers are working with private companies and trade groups on new technologies, including using materials made from renewable sources, such as corn and sugar cane. Most flexible packaging ends up in landfills, he admits. But there are technologies, slowly becoming commercial, that will take flexible plastic packaging and turn it back into the crude oil that it came from. Once converted, the crude can be reused as fuel or in petrochemical manufacturing. The future of packaging is likely to see even more innovation in the years ahead. Beyond looking at a life-cycle approach

Bemis liner film and shelf-stable pouches are taking over for conventional packaging materials.

to packaging and recycling, we could be watching a true greening of the American landscape.

Bemis Company, Inc.

To advertise in our Sustainability sections, contact Debbie Linehan at 212.522.0767. For more on GreenBlue, visit

Leading the way in sustainable paper-based packaging solutions

When considering options for environmentally-responsible packaging solutions, look to Hexacomb. We design custom, paper-based product protection solutions that can positively impact your package weight transport fuel consumption and overall carbon footprint. Hexacombs high-performance materials deliver an ideal combination of strength and weight to meet demanding product protection needs. Our national design and manufacturing network means we can support you as your needs evolve. Hexacomb, the rst choice for environmentally-responsible protective packaging solutions.