In my first year as TLMI’s environmental director, I am very inspired by companies within our membership. We have a good many that go beyond simply meeting compliance and minimum thresholds to believing that their business has the power to be a positive force in the world. Sorting through the many aspects of sustainability, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and not know where or how to begin. It’s also easy to try to spread your efforts so thin and into so many areas that the results become diluted. What I’ve seen is that many of our members have chosen priorities in the areas where they feel they can make the most significant change right now.
When TLMI members want to start on their sustainability journey, I recommend that they begin from the place where they are, even if they have not fully addressed all of the environmental impacts that they need to. Companies can easily move forward by making changes in certain areas and then take things one bite at a time. As an example of this, we have companies that have achieved LEED Certification, use electric vehicles for their fleet, utilize only renewable energy, recycle all of their waste, and have “green teams” that meet monthly with the sole purpose of seeking opportunities to improve.
I have clearly seen that this is an industry that wants to do the right thing, offer the best price and be profitable in doing so. We are part of that ecosystem of suppliers that retailers and brands are increasingly holding accountable to help them achieve their sustainability goals.
Many of TLMI’s large, global supplier members have aggressive sustainability goals that address issues in every region of the world in which they do business. They commit to transparency by submitting to CDP annually, and they utilize the Global Reporting Initiative for their sustainability reporting. But from my perspective, small- and medium-sized suppliers and converters can undertake practical strategies to do an enormous amount as well. In fact, I would argue that a smaller company can make decisions and execute a plan faster than a large multi-national company. As the Dalai Lama says, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a tent with a mosquito.”
Let’s take goals around greenhouse gas emissions, for example. One of the big challenges with developing goals in this area (like Walmart’s Project Gigaton) is, as Andrew Winston says in The Big Pivot, something that is “slow-moving, remote, invisible, and the responsibility of billions of people, is hard for us to grasp.” But if we think of business as being part of the environment, rather than the environment being part of business, it can shift our mindset. That’s exactly what is behind TLMI’s Label Initiative for the Environment, or LIFE, a third-party-audited environmental management system designed to help companies measure and track greenhouse gas emissions, among other things, and create goals around reduction normalized to production.
LIFE is flexible enough so that companies can use it to help generate ideas and opportunities through employee engagement. Identifying targets, executing on quick-win projects, and building buy-in with employees can help a company build momentum in the right direction. Creating a culture that uses sustainability principles to improve products and processes, reduces all forms of waste, and eliminates toxic substances from facilities can have an impressive ROI; in fact, CDP reports that its participants have seen a collective savings of $14 billion from executing strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The LIFE tool can be the starting point to have a piece of that pie.
When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, we know that employees, in particular millennials, want to work for a company with a purpose. The Guardian recently reported that of those born between 1981 and 1996, 62% want to work for a company that makes a positive impact, half prefer purposeful work to a high salary, and 53% would work harder if they were making a difference to others.
Meeting the certification parameters of LIFE provides significant marketing value. We’ve recently rebranded the LIFE logo to reflect our ongoing commitment to sustainability, and we have a number of training webinars planned for members considering LIFE certification.
I see a future where the LIFE logo is recognized by brands and retailers as an indicator that this supplier or converter can be a key contributor to their sustainability goals.
Because TLMI believes that recognition is a form of environmental advocacy, we’ve recently added a LIFE Recognition Award as a way to honor our members for positive actions that are outside of, or in addition to, the LIFE certification process and our Environmental Leadership Awards. In partnership with the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), TLMI will be awarding LIFE Recognition to our members that have products that meet the new APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability.
The idea is that label products that have passed the rigorous APR testing protocols are proven to work with the plastics recycling infrastructure, leaving more recycled PET available for use by brands and retailers. Using recycled PET in containers significantly reduces the carbon footprint of that container, which is why companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Walmart and Target have committed to using such labels. Steve Alexander, president and CEO of APR, says of the LIFE Recognition award, “This is precisely the type of collaboration across industry lines that is necessary to increase the recyclability of containers and packaging. We congratulate TLMI for recognizing those leading label manufacturers who have implemented changes to enhance the sustainability of packaging throughout the entire value chain.”
One of my favorite things is when people see the connection between their personal and professional choices and the impacts they have. Once they have that moment of realization, and change their thinking, they just can’t go back to the old way. Those company leaders and employees that believe that they can make a difference inspire me on a daily basis.
At TLMI, we will continue our journey to learn, develop and celebrate ways in which our members can make a difference.
The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP), an authority in sustainable printing certifications for print manufacturers, aims to spread its message and advance package printing. SGP says its multi-attribute sustainability certification is unlike any other in the printing industry, and it was on-hand at the recent FTA Forum and INFOFLEX exhibition in Indianapolis, IN, USA.
SGP Printers are among a class of facilities that have made a commitment to corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability. Certified printers are seen as valuable resources for consumer product companies that want to elevate their own sustainability initiatives by working with printers that have validated sustainability programs.
“SGP facilitates a more sustainable supply chain by bringing together printers, suppliers and consumer products companies to promote sustainable business practices. We look forward to educating more of FTA’s consumer products company attendees about SGP and the SGP Brand Leaders program so that they, as buyers of flexographically printed materials, can assure a more sustainable supply chain,” comments Doreen Monteleone, FTA sustainability consultant and SGP board member. “Printers and suppliers are welcome and can discuss their actions to become more sustainable links in the print supply chain and how as an industry we can progress further.”
Members of the flexographic printing community have been active participants in the SGP program since SGP’s inception. Numerous flexo printers in the United States and Canada have been certified. Supported by SGP Patrons including FTA members 3M, International Paper, Harper Corporation of America, INX International, Flint Group, MacDermid Graphics Solutions and Yupo, SGP is recognized as a global leader in eco-friendly innovation and best practices for the printing industry. The new SGP Brand Leader program is picking up momentum with print buyers such as REI, Macy’s, Sears Holdings and others recently becoming partners in the SGP community.
Behind TLMI’s efforts to make the association a voice in the sustainability movement is Rosalyn Bandy, Director of Environmental Strategies and Outreach. With over 15 years of experience heading sustainability programs, Bandy identifies key environmental challenges and prioritizes TLMI’s work on those challenges. She also heads up projects with other organizations, including the Association for Plastic Recycling, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Phoenix Challenge Foundation.