Canadian Packaging

Sustainability: Sink Or Swim?

October 27, 2008
by Canadian Packaging Staff

As one of the biggest and most pressing issues du jour in the Canadian packaging industry circles, environmental sustainability has a lot going for it in terms of early momentum, public and legislative support and, perhaps most telling, the single-minded focus by retailing colossus Wal-Mart Canada Corp. to make everyone in its vast supplier base play their part for the cause.

Having set off a profound reaction throughout its supply chain two years ago with the launch of the much-lauded Packaging Scorecard supplier evaluation criteria, Wal-Mart Canada has made it abundantly clear that only those companies that share its enthusiasm for helping clean up our planet will continue to benefit from Wal-Mart’s business in the future.

In that light, one would expect the Canadian suppliers of consumer packaged goods (CPGs) to be embracing packaging reduction and other sustainability practices with the utmost urgency that this new supplier selection reality requires.

To find out whether this is in fact happening, the Canadian Packaging magazine teamed up with the Rogers Publishing Ltd.’s market research department to conduct a national survey of the Canadian CPG industry to determine just how far along it has come since jumping aboard the sustainability bandwagon.

Our exclusive findings, presented over the next several pages of this special report, suggest that despite some early progress, there is still a wide reality gap between many companies’ public pronouncements of newfound environmental sensitivity and what they’ve actually done so far in terms of concrete steps and measures.

For example, only 12 per cent of the responding companies have a designated “chief sustainability officer/vice-president” on their senior management teams, and less than one in four companies (23 per cent) taking part in the survey actually have a packaging sustainabilty program in the works.

Even more surprising, 79 per cent of the respondents who do not have a program in place said they either did not know if they would be implementing a packaging sustainability program in the future, or had no plans to do so at all.

Given such lukewarm embrace of the sustainable packaging movement so far, we asked Wal-Mart Canada’s vice-president for general merchandise Guy McGuffin to share his thoughts on why Canadian CPG companies must accelerate and intensify their sustainability efforts, especially Wal-Mart’s key suppliers.

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