The carbon footprint of your business is a measurement of the greenhouse gases your business produces (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane). It covers a wide range of activities, from resources used to make products, right through to things like onsite gas boilers, electricity and water use, waste disposal, and transport emissions. There are several online calculators that will help you calculate your footprint in tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
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What are the benefits of reducing your carbon footprint?
Most businesses are aware of their carbon footprint and actively looking at ways to reduce it as much as possible. Many customers expect companies to be environmentally aware, so even small steps taken to improve the carbon footprint reflect positively on a brand. It’s advisable to pick a measurable target that’s more relatable top consumers, such as halving your carbon emissions or achieving net zero emissions by a set date. As well as protecting the future of the planet, reducing your carbon footprint can future-proof your business, encourage new customers and attract investments.
Rethinking your packaging strategy could even reduce costs. There are numerous hidden costs not everyone is fully aware of, such as transport, delivery, storage and waste disposal charges, and the cost of goods arriving damaged and customers requesting a refund or returning items which will incur postage costs.
How can I reduce my business’ carbon footprint?
There are several actions that will reduce your carbon footprint, such as recycling as much as possible, adopting more energy-efficient practices such as switching to hybrid or full electric vehicles, using carbon-neutral suppliers, switching from face-to-face to online meetings, reducing waste and rethinking your packaging strategy. It is also worth seeing if it is feasible to apply circular economy to your business model, where you make, use, return, recycle, reuse and make.
Rethinking your packaging strategy
There are several questions that can help you reassess your packaging strategy, such as:
– Is your packaging stored in your own warehouse or off site?
– Is your packaging design as optimised and fit for purpose as it could be?
– Could the packaging workspace be redesigned/streamlined?
– Is the pack rate as high as possible?
– Is the current workforce vs machinery optimised?
Rethinking your packaging design
Rethinking your packaging design involves looking at the material used for both outer packaging and any inner protection as well as assessing the bigger picture in terms of sustainability. Although sustainable packaging sometimes involves a higher upfront cost, there are longer-term benefits such as improved brand equity. Today’s consumers are very environmentally aware and will appreciate companies that are actively trying to improve their carbon footprint. Consider if the design of your packaging is as space-efficient as possible and if the optimal material is being used.
Greener packaging options
A common misconception is that cardboard is the greenest packaging option, whereas it actually uses considerable resources to create, is quite heavy to transport and often cannot be recycled, for instance if it is contaminated with food waste.
Leading organisations in the shrink wrap industry such as Kempner confirm that compostable shrink wrap is a much more sustainable option than cardboard. Shrink wrap is a durable, lightweight, waterproof tamper-proof packaging option that is light to transport, ensures goods remain visible and unaffected by changes in temperature that also prolongs shelf-life of items such as food. Minimising food waste is an important contributor to a smaller carbon footprint. New generation shrink wraps use recyclable materials such as sugarcane polyolefin.
Although metal packaging is sustainable as it can be recycled infinitely, it uses substantial resources to produce and is heavy to transport, meaning high fuel emissions. Tin is one of the greenest options as it is lightweight and magnetic meaning it is easily extracted from the waste process.
Using recycled plastic is another sustainable option, given plastic takes hundreds of years to break down in landfills. It reduces raw material use, is far lighter than glass reducing transport emissions, and is easier to mold into limitless shapes. The new UK Plastic Packaging Tax came into force on 1st April 2022 to encourage manufacturers to use less plastic. The tax affects businesses that manufacture or import over 10 tonnes of plastic packaging per year and applies to packaging containing under 30% recycled material from post-consumer waste material. The tax is levied at £200 per tonne, so companies will be encouraged to increase the proportion of recycled material used in their packaging. In fact, many customers expect plastic packaging to contain at least 50% recycled content, so switching to alternatives such as green shrinkwrap could be the way forward.
Automated packaging machinery
Another option worthy of consideration (particularly for shrink wrap packaging) is investing in automated packaging machinery. This means you can pack a large volume of goods with improved energy efficiency, requiring less handling and labour, and producing high output rates.