Responsibility in business is more important than ever and is driving a new and ambitious sustainability concept – the journey to becoming net positive

Corporate responsibility is more than just a nice-to-have initiative today. It’s a fundamental priority for companies both large and small. But many are taking responsibility even further with a commitment to becoming net positive.

All businesses have impacts on the environment and society – some good, some bad. To be net positive, you need to be giving more back to society and the environment than you take out.

To achieve this, a coalition of companies called the Net Positive Project, which SIG is part of, is working to create a more positive impact on the world. Here, we’ve outlined its key principles and how we’re meeting them:

1. Material: focus on what matters most

Net positive strategies focus on an organisation’s greatest impacts on society and the environment as well as its future potential. These are defined by internal and external stakeholders, and consider the company’s full value chain. All material issues must be considered in a net positive strategy. So a positive impact in one area (e.g. water) cannot compensate for a negative impact in another (e.g. climate change).

We’ve checked the environmental impact of our carton packs with a number of independent, ISO-certified and critically reviewed life-cycle assessments (LCAs). Thus, making sure that we understand the potential impacts of emissions and use of resources on ecosystems, natural resources and human health.

LCA results consistently show the biggest impact on the life-cycle of our packs comes from the production of raw materials. The extraction and refining of a carton pack’s three material components account for almost half the greenhouse gas emissions. (The three components are raw paperboard, polymers and aluminium foil). It also accounts for two thirds the fossil resources associated with the pack’s life-cycle. And compared to raw paperboard, the production of polymers and aluminium foil produce more greenhouse gases and consume more fossil resources.

This is why we’re working hard to create innovative carton structures such as EcoPlus, which eliminates aluminium, and SIGNATURE PACK, the first aseptic carton pack 100% linked to renewable raw materials, to further minimise SIG’s environmental impact.

2. Regenerative: create a long-term, sustainable impact

Revitalising the natural world, supporting social communities and improving individual well-being – these are the key goals of becoming net positive. This generates long-term benefits. The positive impacts created in one material issue exceed a company’s negative footprints without damaging other material areas. So, while net positive is a journey and progress is recorded, clear reductions or improvements matter most.

Our carton packs have always had a regenerative DNA. Its main material is liquid packaging board (LPB) made from renewable resources. In 2009, we started a journey with the Forest Stewardship CouncilTM (FSCTM trademark licence code: FSCTM C020428), making sure the resource that goes into our raw paperboard isn’t just renewable but is covered by a certification scheme ensuring the highest environmental and social standards.

As a result of this, SIG became the first carton pack manufacturer to be FSC-certified. This applies to all production sites and sales units worldwide. At the same time, we were the first to ensure 100% of our global LPB supply comes from FSC-certified paper mills. In 2016, we kept the momentum on responsible sourcing. This was done by becoming the first and, so far, only carton producer to sell 100% of its cartons with an FSC label. In 2017, we increased the minimum supply of liquid packaging board made with wood from FSC-certified forests from 70% to 89%. And by 2020, we want 100% of our packs to carry the FSC label. This is part of global efforts to ensure forest growth.

As part of our efforts to replace non-renewable packaging components with responsibly-sourced renewable alternatives, we reached an important milestone in 2017 with our SIGNATURE PACK – the first aseptic carton linked completely to renewable resources via a mass balancing certification.

In applications where we don’t yet have a renewable alternative for the aluminium foil in standard aseptic packaging, we partner with our suppliers to establish responsible sourcing and material stewardship. With our value chain partner Amcor, we’re currently assessing how far our complete supply chain meets the performance standard of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative.

3. Systemic: Influence change across entire systems

Going net positive not only drives positive changes in a company’s value chain, from raw materials to product disposal. It also influences wider social, environmental and economic systems. But a single organisation is unlikely to create and sustain positive social and environmental outcomes on its own. So, given the scope of these systems, we must continually reassess a net positive strategy. This ensures it has the greatest impact.

SIG participates in several partnerships to ensure a systemic approach to sustainability. We presented the Vancouver Declaration at the FSC’s General Assembly in 2017, pledging with other leading companies to ensure our use of forest materials contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Together with IKEA, we also supported the launch of the FSC’s Bonn Initiative at the COP23 global climate conference, which aims to develop methodologies that quantify the benefits of FSC certification. The aim is to enable companies and governments to better understand the role of responsible forest management in mitigating climate change.

SIG promotes high ethical standards among all its suppliers and encourages them to set net positive goals. In 2017, we were pleased to welcome the Stora Enso Consumer Board Division, one of our main suppliers of liquid packaging board, as a fellow member of the Net Positive Project.

4. Transparent: share progress openly and honestly

A net positive strategy requires action, progress and measurement that’s clear, credible and easily accessible in communication. In short, companies need to be open and transparent. Reporting on or attributing material impacts – both positive and negative – must be measurable and demonstrable, and where possible, independently verified. This will help drive consistency and learning across all organisations.

In 2016, SIG published its first Corporate Responsibility Report, outlining our WAY BEYOND GOOD ambition. It describes the systems we have in place to manage material social and environmental issues. It also sets out specific targets for the future and reports on our current performance. We produced the report in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines, including limited assurance by PwC.

Our blog platform SIGnals, meanwhile, allows us to communicate actions and progress in a more accessible and engaging way. Here, you’ll find a wealth of stories that put the spotlight on SIG. We explain what we do, why we do it and what we’ve learnt.

Want to know more about going net positive? Contact us now or read more about our net positive vision called WAY BEYOND GOOD.

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