Trivium Packaging Interview

Ahead of Sustainability in Packaging Europe 2021, we spoke to Trivium Packaging about the challenges and future trends of the industry.

Q1. As consumers and end-users continue to push for more sustainable/greener solutions, what do you think is the biggest concern regarding packaging?
I would like to address two main challenges: A holistic approach to sustainability in packaging is missing and consumer perceptions are not always in line with reality.
  • A holistic approach
Packaging material selection has become more complex in this era of increased environmental awareness. The importance of sustainability is undeniably growing. In the Trivium 2021 Buying Green report, a global survey of more than 15,000 consumers, 67% of the respondents consider themselves environmentally conscious. Brands considering sustainability as part of their packaging decisions have tended to rely on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tools in their decision-making processes. LCAs are an important tool in evaluating material sustainability; however, they only present a partial picture of a material’s environmental impact. When making material selection decisions that will favorably position a brand with environmentally conscious consumers, it’s important to take a more holistic view of sustainability. In Trivium’s whitepaper on Building on Life Cycle Assessments to Holistically Measure Packaging Sustainability, we call for a holistic approach that expands traditional LCA methods to account for circularity while also factoring in the impact of packaging materials on the waste stream and improving shelf life.
  • Consumer perceptions: Our Buying Green Report, a survey of more than 15,000 consumers globally that we conducted in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group showed that consumers tend to overestimate the recyclability of specific packaging materials that are in practice challenging to recycle, and underestimate other inherently more circular materials—such as metal, which is infinitely recyclable.
It is evident that consumer perceptions on packaging materials are influenced by a variety of factors, but the goal of the industry should be to move closer to true material circularity. Our research findings provide a clear call to action for brands as well as local and national authorities eager to spearhead the move toward sustainability: clarifying and communicating the difference in the recyclability and recycling rates of packaging materials, providing more fact-based information on recycling rates and best practices, and using clearer labels, are all important steps in moving in this direction.

Q2. What industry topics are getting the most attention at this time? How are these factors influencing the future of packaging?
Sustainability is at the top of the agenda throughout the packaging industry. Specifically, we see that: i) brand owners are embracing ambitious sustainability goals; ii) sustainable packaging innovations; and iii) consumer preferences are changing when it comes to sustainable packaging.
Brands move towards sustainability goals
In recent years, we have seen plastic pollution dominating the public’s concern for the environment. Governments and corporations have, in turn, responded through new legislation, regulations and pledges aimed at curbing the use of single-use and difficult-to-recycle plastics that hinder circularity. Although the implementation of some of these measures has been temporarily halted due to the global pandemic, brands are proactively making bold commitments to improve both the sustainability of their packaging and to fundamentally rethink their packaging systems. Going forward, manufactures or converters will have to proactively embrace sustainability issues as consumer demands and regulatory requirements multiply.
Sustainable innovations
The future of packaging looks for solutions that “do more, with less” and do it right. Due to less material input, less GHG emissions and energy usage, lightweight packaging is getting more attention by the industry. However, the challenge is to execute it right so that the lighter packaging maintains the same level of quality and safety and can go back to the recycling system after its use, instead of a one-way journey to incineration or landfill. For example, our team has worked on new aluminum bottles that have undergone a 20% weight reduction in the last 5 years, while maintaining the same level of quality and safety and can be recycled endlessly after its use. This enabled us to really achieve reductions in energy, carbon footprint and raw materials through the product lifecycle.
Changing Consumer Preferences
More and more consumers today are actively looking for environmentally friendly packaging solutions—a trend that is persisting for several years now. For example, our findings in the Buying Green Report show that 67% of consumers find it important that the products they buy are in packaging that is recyclable, and 64% of consumers find it important that the products they buy are in packaging that contains recycled content. Despite the pandemic, consumers did not abandon their commitment to sustainability. A significant majority continue to identify themselves as environmentally aware, and younger consumers, in particular, are willing to pay more for products enclosed in sustainable packaging. While other priorities emerged during the pandemic, the data indicates that consumers not only continue to value sustainability but also are putting those values into action when making purchasing decisions. These are important takeaways for brands who are looking to shift to sustainable packaging.

Q3. What does your organisation hope to achieve over the next 5 years with regards to the future of packaging industry?
Earlier this year, Trivium introduced its new sustainability strategy, “Circularity Champion”, which aims to transform us into the partner of choice for quality and sustainable packaging. Underlying the Circularity Champion are three pillars that cover Trivium’s entire value chain. Within each pillar, we identified priority areas based on a stakeholder materiality assessment; established targets that we aim to achieve within the next 5-10 years; and mapped links between our sustainability focus and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

From a customer perspective, our goal is to raise awareness of the benefits of metal packaging among our customers and their consumers; facilitate customer information requests; and engage with stakeholders on sustainable packaging initiatives that add great value to our customers. We aim to achieve this through, among other things, sharing timely and insightful research with customers and end consumers on sustainable packaging, and initiating multi-stakeholder collaborations for circularity, such as our project on PCR collection with social impact organizations in Argentina.”

For the planet, we are committed to responsible business practices that minimize our impact on the natural environment. We’ve therefore set ambitious targets that we hope to achieve by 2030, such as a 30% reduction of our CO2 footprint; a 10% reduction in water consumption; and zero landfill waste. We’re also committing to produce even more sustainable products and to work with suppliers that share our passion for sustainability.
Finally, for the people—our people, as well as the local community. We aim to provide our employees with a safe and healthy work environment, where they can feel engaged and appreciated, and empowered to make positive social and environmental impacts on a daily basis. We similarly strive to be a trustworthy corporate citizen, with sustainability targets and initiatives that are relevant to and aligned with the needs of local and regional stakeholders connected to our business.” You can also read Trivium’s Sustainability Report 2020 to gain more insights on our goals towards 2030 and current achievements.

Q4. How do you think COVID-19 will impact the packaging industry in the short and longer-term? How will it impact sustainability considerations from end-users and consumers?
COVID-19 has impacted the way we work, live and engage with one another. However, around the world, concerns about the environmental footprint of packaging and the pursuit of more sustainable packaging are still expected to be a profound part of the new normal. The Sustainable Market Share IndexTM even indicates that sustainability is a firm foundation for growth.
Despite a year of unprecedented disruption and the pandemic, overall consumer demand for sustainable packaging remains high according to our Buying Green report. 67% of consumers identified as environmentally aware, consistent with last year’s report. Additionally, 67% of those surveyed identified packaging that is recyclable as important, 64% identified packaging that contains recycled content as a priority in their buying decisions.  Fewer than 1 in 3 consumers deprioritized sustainable packaging due to COVID-19.
According to Michael Mapes, the CEO of Trivium Packaging, “No event in recent memory has had as much impact on consumer behaviour as COVID-19 yet the majority of consumers did not de-prioritize sustainability in the face of the pandemic, a true testament to the unwavering sustainability movement led by young consumers”.

Q6. What are you most looking forward to about attending the Sustainability in Packaging Europe 2021 conference?
We believe in the power of collaboration. In fact, we see no alternative to tackling the global challenges of our era, such as transitioning to full circularity, other than by engaging with multiple, diverse stakeholders. For this reason, we are looking forward to joining the interactive conversations at Sustainability in Packaging Europe. Our aim is not only to speak in the conference, but we want to drive action: action funded by profound research and action by setting up collaborations throughout the entire supply chain. Trivium prepares a booth where you can find examples of our collaboration in the supply chain and where we can share experiences and ideas for the future of packaging!