By T.K. Tamby
In a global and transparent economy where a company’s reputation is measured by its actions, the whole concept of business sustainability inevitably becomes more than just lip service. Defined as managing the triple bottom line – profits, people and the planet –a sustainability model is indeed a crucial element for any company’s viability and growth.
By adopting sustainability as part of its business philosophy, a company acknowledges co-dependency; a mechanism by which our planet operates. This was probably what Ruben Rausing, the founder of Tetra Pak, considered when he famously said that a Tetra Pak package should save more than it costs – both in social as well as economic terms.
“Environmentally responsible thinking is actually nothing new for us, but part of a long and celebrated tradition,” said Tetra Pak communications and environment director for Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines Terrynz Tan. “In simpler terms, we talk about creating a value chain that transfers the values and benefits of sustainability from one player to another.”
As an example, Tetra Pak packages are designed and produced around the concept of source reduction, which is a means to minimise waste and reduce the consumption of energy. Tetra Pak cartons are mostly made of virgin paper sourced from sustainably managed forests. More importantly, the Tetra Pak cartons are 100 percent recyclable.
Today, more than 70 percent of Tetra Pak packages are aseptic cartons. And these aseptic cartons are widely used to transport and store beverages without the need for refrigeration, thus resulting in considerable savings in energy.
The cartons are also 20 percent lighter today than they were 20 years ago, which means that producing these cartons require fewer resources, energy, storage and transport and ultimately less waste to be disposed of. Additionally, these packaging can be safely treated by various waste management options such as incineration, which allows for energy recovery or by recycling the packaging.
“All these benefits can eventually be transferred in economic and business terms down the value chain from our customers that produce their beverages and packaged foods to the end user,” said Tan.
Globally, Tetra Pak has three 2020 environmental goals – developing renewable packaging using only renewable materials; capping climate impact across the value chain at 2010 levels; and doubling the global recycling rate for used Tetra Pak cartons.
In Malaysia, since 2005, Tetra Pak has been actively working with government agencies, recycling partners and local communities to raise awareness and ensure that beverage cartons are collected and recycled effectively in the country.
Today, after much hard work and investment, the company’s efforts are inspiring change. Malaysia’s beverage carton recycling rate has increased from zero to 15 percent in eight years, boosted by Tetra Pak’s initiatives in strengthening the nationwide collection network of used beverage cartons, promoting recycling technology among local recyclers and running various community projects to drive awareness.
“We hope to see closer cooperation between public and private sectors and open dialogues with various stakeholders in order to drive growth in recycling and collection. This is especially important in fast growing markets like Malaysia that do not have supportive recycling legislation nor sufficient waste management infrastructure in place,” Tetra Pak Malaysia environmental manager Manjula Murugesan told Business Circle.
Manjula added that incorporating stronger environmental messages in a structured manner in schools, along with providing infrastructure to promote recycling at an early age, will also help in driving recycling and collection initiatives.
“This can’t be done by just one person or one entity – everyone has to play a role, from the government to the private corporations to members of the public,” said Manjula. “The truth then boils down to this one simple fact: it is possible to align your business goals with environmental considerations in a way that balances costs and benefits, sustain a competitive edge and contribute to sustainable development.”