Find out how strategic partnerships, transparent claims on environmental impact, and wise investments play a crucial role in helping consumers avoid 'eco exhaustion' by embracing sustainable practices in your manufacturing.
As a manufacturer, you know consumers’ interest in sustainable products has grown in recent years; in fact, according to a 2024 Euromonitor consumer trends report, 64% of consumers strived to make a positive environmental impact throughout their everyday actions in 2023. However, the report also notes that consumers are realizing they can only do so much to improve sustainability on their own and experiencing what has become known as “eco exhaustion”.
Therefore, it’s critical for other parts of the value chain to make a positive impact and help consumers, including your company.
Learn about three ways you as a manufacturer can help consumers avoid eco exhaustion by putting forth efforts to reduce overall environmental impact.
#1: Develop Strategic Partnerships
When working to find sustainable solutions that apply directly to your specific market concerns, it’s important to understand that you may not be able to find all the answers on your own. For example, a flexible packaging product may be comprised of multiple components that could all contribute to improving sustainability, from the plastic substrate to the inks used for labeling as well as the sealing technology. It’s possible there may be several groups involved when creating a single package product. Therefore, it may be difficult for one company to find sustainable solutions for components that they may be outside of their expertise.
This is why it’s important to develop strategic partnerships with suppliers who can help recommend sustainable materials or production methods. These partnerships can help you both increase the speed to finding sustainable solutions and avoid future penalties that could end up costing more in the long run. Further, announcing your partnerships with consumers and other parts of the value chain can help build brand awareness that you are aware of environmental concerns and making a conscious effort to help improve them. In particular, these are areas of concern you may consider addressing through your partnerships that consumers feel they cannot improve on their own:
Reducing Carbon Footprint:
Because every market contributes to increased carbon emissions through manufacturing processes, this is an area in which you can help the value chain make strides. Some options to consider in cutting emissions include:
- Decreasing or eliminating solvents: Replacing solvent-based materials with alternative options can help improve worker safety. Further, doing so can reduce overall processing times and equipment requirements if you no longer need to burn off solvents. This helps you reduce overall energy usage. Additionally, alternative options to solvent-based materials can help you get the most out of your supply yield and streamline costs, as the steps of burning off solvents results in less overall yield available for manufacturing.
- Using lightweight materials: From transporting materials to your facility to the end-use product, heavier materials such as steel or mechanical fasteners can contribute to increased carbon emissions by requiring more energy usage to move it from place to place. By utilizing lightweight options such as plastics or structural adhesives, you can ease the overall transporting of the product to help lower overall carbon emissions released into the environment. Further, some materials may even be recyclable at the products end-of-life disposal, contributing to improved circularity.
- Streamlining processes: When possible, utilizing one sustainable material on multiple production lines can help you reduce overall changeouts or downtime. This can result in less overall energy usage, which can also help your production costs.
Improving Circular Economy:
When considering how the materials within your end-use products contribute to improving the environment, it’s important to think about ways to enhance overall circularity. This includes considering products that offer:
- Recyclability: It’s a good idea to understand how substrates, such as plastic, offer different methods for recycling and the potential to increase the circular yield; clear plastics, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), can be broken down into flakes and reformed into clear plastic for bottles and trays, helping to increase the overall circular yield for clear plastic. Colored plastics, such as HDPE or PP, can be formed into different products from what they were during their first use; while they can be recycled, they will not increase the overall circular yield.
- Wash-off capabilities: While not all components of an end-use product will be recyclable, some can be cleanly removed to enable other components to be recycled. For example, labels used with wash-off label adhesives can help increase the overall circular yield, because they enable a recyclable tray or bottle to enter the recycling stream without contamination.
#2: Be Factual with Claims
Consumers are very aware of corporations who have made misleading claims or failed to deliver on sustainability initiatives; in fact, Packaging World reported overall, companies around the world are not on track to meet 2025 sustainability targets previously made through the Global Commitment. This has to do in part with the challenges of being factual and therefore not announcing achievements until companies have proven results.
While it can be time consuming to be accurate and develop proof of your sustainable solutions, it is imperative to help ensure consumers and other parts of the value chain that your efforts are helping improve the environment. Further, this can help your brand image increase as a reliable expertise in your market. This is why companies are beginning to provide accurate reports on the following:
- Emission reduction: Accurately mapping out your carbon footprint is a way to demonstrate trackable progress your company has made to improve your environmental footprint in a way that consumers cannot achieve on their own. This includes measuring direct and indirect emissions, including emissions the stem from parts of the value chain before and after your contribution to the end-use product.
- Lifecycle assessments (LCAs): Recording an analysis of potential environmental impacts from your product during its lifespan can help you gain a holistic perspective on potential ways it may be improved. From raw materials, production and end-of-life disposal, LCAs can identify hotspots throughout the product lifespan that may not provide sustainable benefits, allowing you to clarify specific problems that are most worthwhile to spend time and resources improving.
#3: Reassess Investments
It’s no secret that many companies have delayed efforts to improve their environmental footprint due to increased material or equipment costs that come with utilizing sustainable materials. However, governmental pressures are now making it necessary to consider ways you can improve. Reassessing your investments can help you implement changes at a rate that is feasible for your company, while helping you save costs in the long run. Some investment areas to reconsider include:
- Trialing for certifications: While efforts to achieve specific certifications can take additional time and resources away from daily operations, they can also provide proof that your materials are meeting key sustainability requirements, such as recyclability or compostable. This may entice other brands or suppliers to work with you in the future to develop sustainable end-use products that meet their specific needs. It is important to note, however, that you should consider your options before trialing, as there are manufacturing suppliers available to help with pilot testing to avoid taking time out from regular production schedules.
- Changes to equipment: Some changes to improve your environmental footprint may require you to add equipment to your current processes or change it out altogether, such as replacing solvent-based materials with an alternative option. While this can be an upfront investment, it’s likely the material you’ll use instead is intended to help reduce energy usage with improved formulations or processing speeds. Therefore, your regular production costs may decrease in the long run while allowing you to provide end-use products that improve your carbon footprint.
How Bostik is Helping Companies Make Environmental Improvements
As the adhesive solutions segment of Arkema, we understand that adhesives and sealants can help improve the world’s environmental footprint at a level that is beyond what consumers can achieve on their own. That’s why we are dedicated to helping your company manufacture products that help you achieve key sustainability goals, such as decreasing carbon emissions, reducing waste and improving the circular economy. We are continually finding ways to:
- Develop strategic partnerships: By working with groups including the NEXTLOOPP Project, Charter Next Generation and American Packaging Corporation, we are using expertise we already have on specific technologies and substrates to increase our knowledge and develop solutions that will directly benefit other manufacturers who rely on our adhesives and sealants for their packaging components. Further, we provide technical expertise to companies developing sustainable innovations, such as EV battery applications to help them find the right performance for their specific needs.
- Improve formulations: From replacing fossil fuels with bio-based solutions in several markets to finding ways to eliminate solvents and isocyanates, we are continually researching and developing alternative solutions that can help you make quick and easy adjustments without sacrificing performance.
- Conduct lifecycle assessments: Our experts are studying the lifespans of our solutions and identifying places where we can improve the potential for reducing environmental impact. This can help save you time and resources by knowing our solutions may provide little environmental impact with your end-use product.
- Certification investments: We continually work to obtain key certifications that help ensure you are addressing recycling or other sustainability requirements, such as:
- Pre-qualification by How2Recycle® for Store Drop-off on PE film for Turbo-Seal® cold seal adhesives
- Certification as recyclable on PE film by RecyClass for m-resin extrudable reseal solutions
- Certification as recyclable on PE trays by Ecosense Foundation for m-resin extrudable reseal solutions
Are you trying to show consumers and other parts of the value chain that you are working to improve your environmental footprint? Contact a Bostik expert to learn how our adhesive and sealant solutions can help you track progress and provide proven results.
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