Hello!

Today we are going to discuss the next portion of the Walmart SVN meeting I attended on May 7th; this was scheduled in conjuncture with the Walmart/Sam’s Club Sustainable Packaging Expo in Bentonville, Arkansas. For feedback from the first portion of the meeting, visit May 9th’s post.

After a quick break the Packaging SVN re-assembled inside the conference hall. Soon after, Ron Sasine took the stage, exclaiming excitement for the next presenters, the “Future Packaging Team.” Quickly a group of High School students from Wisconsin filed on stage and the SVN was introduced to a packaging case-study that demonstrated an item-specific approach to packaging sustainability, as encouraged by the former presenters.

Narrating the case study, the students each took a turn describing their efforts, which began with isolating “fluffy” products, like pillows and blankets, as a Walmart product that could use a packaging makeover. Because said “fluffy products” contain so much air, the shipping is presumably ineffective when compared with a more condensed format. The students decided to focus their initiative on pillow packaging, hoping that if a solution was developed, it could be applied to other fluffy products sold at retail.

The students began their investigation by visiting the pillow manufacturer and Walmart inventory, where it was discovered that the pillows were packed inside a tall, rectangular corrugate box. Issues of package bowing and seam busting were observed, leading the students to conclude that if the pillows were to be further condensed, thereby allowing for more efficient shipping, outer support would be needed to keep the corrugate container intact.

Subsequently, they approached a binding machinery manufacturer, where they proposed the idea of developing a binding machine that could be used on the exterior of the box. The students then developed a more compact corrugate box, which would fit the same amount of pillows in a box that consumed around 40% less material. They added rivets to the box’s exterior, providing a valley for the plastic binders to rest.

Though still in the pilot stage, the students determined that if Walmart were to replace its pillow packaging with the new, condensed format, it would save in shipping the equivalent of removing 884 trucks from the roads a year; not to mention, the savings in inventory and shelf space.

The students then informed the SVN of their upcoming appointment with the pillow buyer at Walmart AND the pillow manufacturer sold at Walmart to pitch the idea of condensed packaging and exterior binding to the stakeholders.

The kids finished to a standing ovation as the SVN was delighted by the simplicity yet functionality of the students’ proposal.

Who knows…maybe we will see a new, condensed pillow packaging format at Walmart stores soon!

The implication of this presentation is clear: Walmart wants its suppliers to take an item-specific approach to sustainability gains and cost savings, demonstrated by the students’ isolation of pillows as an item that could be re-engineered to yield higher value in the eyes of the retailer.

Hey guys!

Boy howdy do I feel like a real business woman now! Had my first terrible plane debacle—but I’m alive—so its obviously not that bad.

In a nut-shell I booked a flight to Northwest Arkansas to attend the Walmart/Sam’s Club Sustainable Value Network meeting Monday; from which, I was scheduled to fly to Dallas to connect to Miami in time for my presentation at the Bioplastics Compounding and Processing Conference the next day. Due to intense thunderstorms in Chicago Sunday night, flights Monday morning out of Chicago were delayed, which made me late for the SVN meeting. I ran in heels and everything. Then my flight from Arkansas to Dallas was delayed, due to roving thunderstorms over Dallas. So, I would have missed my connection to Miami, even if I made it to Dallas that night, which I didn’t. While at the rebooking agent in Arkansas, I was completely floored to discover that there was no possible way for me to get to Miami by noon the next day. The last flight out of Arkansas was the flight I was scheduled to be on, which was at 5:50 PM! CRAZY. So the moral of the story is: don’t assume that all airports are like O’Hare; and, try to keep things in perspective— even while trapped on the jet bridge for HOURS with a hysterical baby and crabby flight attendants. As my father says, “nothing is that important.”

Luckily, I attended a large chunk of the SVN meeting regardless of my late arrival, so I have some updates to share.

The section titled “New Packaging Implementation” began with Director of Packaging for Walmart Chet Rutledge and his Sam’s Club counterpart Robert Parvis performing a skit: Chet was playing a Walmart buyer and Robert was playing a supplier trying to pitch “magical pixie dust,” which renders all packaging material nonexistent when disposed in landfill; and, “even taste like chicken!”

The metaphor here is that Walmart has heard it all before, and what they encourage from their suppliers is due diligence when investigating new packaging innovation: “do your homework.” Instead of trying to sell just for selling’s sake, suppliers to Walmart should align their objectives with those of the retailer; this is to deliver the best valued product at the lowest cost—using sustainability as the vehicle for driving change. Urging an item-specific approach, Walmart looks to collaborate with its suppliers to facilitate improvements throughout the supply chain, like those communicated in the “Packaging Success Stories” to accompany the next days’ Expo proceedings.

Next, Chet and Robert moved on to a discussion of “Best Practices for Product Suppliers,” emphasizing sales, profit, inventory and SKUs as the talking points through which product/packaging improvements be facilitated via sustainable packaging systems. Only if a proposed change addresses these concerns will Walmart buyers consider it. Conversations of cost implications are also crucial, for if neglected, imply no savings to be incurred. Product suppliers were urged to look to their packaging suppliers for help, welcoming proactive innovations over a retailer-proposed agenda. Chet concludes, “Innovation is good…change is difficult; keep it simple— Walmart’s system and scale will complicate the most simple of tasks.”

My next post will provide feedback Ron Sasine’s “Future of Packaging Team,” PACNEXT, and AMERIPEN.

It’s CRUNCH TIME

July 18, 2011

Hey!

Sooooo I am about to go retreat to the deep, dark depths of my condo for a week so I can write Dordan’s next white paper, “The Truth about Plastic Packaging,” which is based on Susan Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. The book is awesome and Susan is a really great writer. I have learned so much about plastic and I hope to present a concise, easy-to-read summary of sorts of her extensive work, which focuses on all the hot button issues surrounding plastic packaging like PVC, BPA, plastics in the ocean, etc. I apologize for my absence the next week, but it’s CRUNCH TIME.

And for your viewing pleasure, some Dordan news IN the news, neat! Thanks Greener Package and PlasticsToday.com!!!

Pack Expo: Dordan to offer Walmart Packaging Modeling 3.0 Tutorials
Pack Expo: Dordan to perform COMPASS LCA demonstrations
Thermoformer Dordan expands range of sustainable packaging
Pack Expo: Dordan adds new resins to its Bio Resin Show N Tell

Hello and happy Friday!

Today we are going to discuss the second part of the Walmart SVN/Expo. For a discussion of the first part, visit April 20th’s post.

After a discussion of Metrics, the SVN Packaging leadership team discussed changes to the Scorecard. Since its introduction to the packaging community, the Scorecard has been used as a tool for information entry, not action facilitation. What this means is that Walmart suppliers have only, for the most part, demonstrated the “completion of Scores,” as opposed to how said Scores inform procurement. Now, however, it is not just Scorecard completion per item file encouraged, but total impact and progress.

The Walmart SVN packaging leadership team intend on orchestrating this by allowing software users to calculate total GHG equivalents emitted per CMUM (“consumer meaningful unit of measure,” i.e pair of socks or 16 oz bottle of water), in order to establish a baseline off which to gauge progress. This will be accomplished by multiplying the selling unit (CMUM) sales by GHG equivalents emitted per item. The progress of Walmart’s goal of reducing GHG emissions across all stores (and clubs?) by 2013, therefore, can be quantified and qualified by performing reports on item level (CMUM) GHG emissions from 2008 vs. 2013; if a 5% reduction is observed, Walmart has reached its GHG reduction goal. The take away? Vendors should demonstrate a change in GHG/CMUM by 2013 when compared with 2008 Scores (assuming they were entered and active).

A representative of the Walmart SVN packaging leadership team then encouraged the following actions by the SVN participants:

Product suppliers: look at item files and make sure all are active and verify Scorecard entry per item; cancel the non-active files. Work to decrease resource and energy use, thereby reducing GHG equivalents emitted per selling unity/CMUM.

Buyers: ensure vendors complete above mentioned tasks; be ready and informed for how to read reports when they come.

Packaging suppliers: understand what is driving buyers (GHG reduction per selling unit/CMUM) and work to aid progress in this area.

Have a splendid weekend!

Hello!

It has been raining in Chicago for almost a week and it is forecast to rain throughout the weekend, too. UGGGG. I hope you are all reading this from much more attractive climates.

I am about a third of the way through “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things,” and boy is it a downer, though an extremely thought-provoking one at that! I know the book is a bit dated (published in 2002), but I find it extremely relevant to today’s “sustainability” discussions. That which I enjoy so much about authors McDonough’s and Braungart’s treatment of how humans interact with their natural environment is the way they contextualize everything—from the way we design cities to packaging—in regards to the Industrial Revolution, capitalism, and the prevailing social systems of the times in which these concepts took root in the social imagination of the masses. They not only intertwine history (the replacement of guilds and craftsmen with the mass migration into cities due to the demand for increased production resulting from a variety of technology innovations), but philosophy, politics, art, religion, etc. into their discussion of how humans have come to understand our natural environmental and our place therein. They basically argue that we need to dramatically redefine the way we design things to replicate those designs found in nature: instead of using the earth’s resources to fuel economies, designs should engage in mutually beneficial relationships with the resources inherent in the specific system in which they exist to create systems of sustainment. Think of the way the sun is a “free” feedstock that is responsible for the sustainment of all life on this planet. Plants consume this resource, which is infinite and results in no negative environmental emissions to the environment, and the circle of life begins…whenever I say the circle of life I instantly think of the Lion King.

Wow, that was quite the tangent! Anyway, I encourage everyone to read this book as it illuminates how a lot of the dialogue today around “packaging and sustainability” sort of misses the boats insofar as everything we have created—the systems of our sustainment—are themselves inherently unsustainable do to the way capitalism informs our understanding of our natural environment. What I am implying is that while baby steps towards sustainability are always encouraged (like switching from one packaging material to another due to lower GHG emissions per selling unit), they are but a drop in the gigantic bucket that is the inefficiencies of our current approach to production, distribution, and consumption. Bummer, right? But again, this is an argument, and as with all arguments, please take with a grain of salt.

I feel like I am in Environment and Society 101.

Today we will discuss the happenings of the Walmart SVN, which I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, on April 11th.

The Packaging SVN is comprised of one representative from each company that is involved directly, or indirectly, with the packaging sold at Walmart/Sam’s Club stores or the systems used to move packaging through the supply chain to distribution. Other attendees include members of trade organizations/academics/and packaging service providers. The SVN convenes twice a year so the Walmart/Sam’s Club packaging professionals can discuss with their Network progress/changes to packaging goals and other areas of interest to the Walmart packaging community. Issued covered previously, as narrated in my post describing the events of the December SVN, include, but are not limited to: Walmart Scorecard, Global Packaging Project, US EPA environmental packaging working group, developments in sustainable packaging, packaging success case studies, etc.

The SVN leadership team began by discussing metrics. For those of you immersed in the sustainable packaging scene, you are probably all too familiar with the “metrics dilemma,” which I understand as follows: Metrics can be understood as a description of a component of a package’s sustainability i.e. GHG emissions per selling unit. For each metric considered, LCI data is needed to quantify the specific environmental packaging attribute in question with hard data, from a life cycle based approach per system of investigation. While the SPC, GPP, Walmart and others have done a fantastic job creating “metrics” describing how to gauge and understand the sustainability of a package, the reality is that regardless of the tool used to quantify said metrics (COMPASS, Scorecard, etc.), not enough LCI/LCA information is available to allow for accurate results. As a revered LCA practitioner said at the SPC meeting in San Diego, “LCA is a COMPASS, not a GPS.” What this means is that because there is not enough data history, existing data, and relevant LCI data per packaging material and/or specific system of production, distribution and end of life, all metrics/LCA tools can do is help point you in the direction of where you should be heading; they are not representative of where you actually are. The Walmart Scorecard, SPC COMPASS, and other LCA-based packaging modeling softwares all use the same publically available data provided via the ACC, US EPA, Eco-Invent, etc.; consequently, these tools don’t have access to all the information needed to holistically represent the “sustainability” of a package/system from an LCA-based approach.

We began the SVN meeting discussing the state of “metrics” as they are available for use in LCA-based packaging modeling tools. LCI data for nine virgin resins and two recycled resins (I believe RHDPE and RPET) have been submitted and approved; LCI data for recycled paper and paperboard has been submitted and I believe may have been approved and/or is pending approval; LCI data for virgin paper and paperboard was submitted but not approved by the US EPA’s WARM model— updated LCI data is expected end of 2012; LCI data for corrugate was submitted but not approved by the US EPA’s WARM model—updated LCI data is expected end of 2012; LCI data for glass has not been submitted; I am blanking on aluminum…

What all this means, that is, the state of the available LCI data as it applies to metrics used to quantify the sustainability of a package/system from an LCA-based approach, is that we are attempting to put science to something that doesn’t really have ALL the science available…yet. By using COMPASS to quantify the environmental profile of different packaging concepts in the design phase, engineers attempt to understand how to design packages that have less of a burden on the environment throughout their life cycle than the existing package; however, if the LCI data for, lets say, virgin paperboard is from 1980 (I may be wrong but I believe that is the most recent LCI data set used), then changes to manufacturing processes implemented thereafter or holes in data resulting from uniformed LCA practice from when the study was performed may provide a hazy picture of the actual “sustainability” of a package. We are on the right track, but until we have accurate, up-to-date and verifiable LCI data for all dimensions of the packaging chain, it is difficult to use the existing packaging modeling softwares to perform accurate LCA case studies of different packages/concepts.

So yeah, the Walmart Packaging leadership team discussed how they are working to incorporate more accurate LCI data into the Scorecard, once that data is available.

Wow, today’s post has been a bit involved. I am going to stop here and let you all digest. And please note that I in no way shape or form pretend to be an expert on LCI/LCA; this discussion is the result of what I have taken away from recent conferences and the Walmart SVN.

Walmart SVN feedback 2:3

January 28, 2011

Hello and happy Friday!

Guess what: yesterday marked the highest trafficked-blog day EVER! 76 new people visited my blog! That’s like, almost a small concert!

Today I am going to summarize the second part of Walmart’s SVN meeting, which I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, on December 14th. For a description of the first half of the meeting’s happenings, visit January 21st’s post.

December 14th, 2010
Sam’s Clubs Headquarters, Rogers, Arkansas
Walmart’s winter SVN meeting

After an explanation of changes to the metrics of the Scorecard, one of the new team members touched upon the Supplier Sustainability Assessment. Unlike the Scorecard, which attempts to quantify the “sustainability” of a package at the item/SKU-level, the SSA attempts to quantify the “sustainability” of a supplier at the corporate level. Comprised of 15 questions that look to illuminate a supplier’s relationship with its employees and community in addition to the materials and natural resources consumed via its processes, this Assessment conveys how a supplier approaches sustainability. It was then articulated that the packaging Scorecard will be a component of the SSA, though I am unaware of how it will be incorporated.

Next, the host touched upon Walmart’s recently announced global sustainable agriculture goals, which as per this press release, means that Walmart “will buy more from small and mid-sized farmers around the world; reduce food waste; and sustainably source key agricultural products.”

Then the Product Index was introduced, which I found very interesting. Apparently, Walmart has embarked upon the journey of collecting LCI data on every product sold at their Stores. This Index, like the Scorecard, attempts to quantify the sustainability of a product at the item/SKU-level. Can you image the amount of work that would go into getting LCI data on all the products sold at Walmart/Sam’s Club?!? It was explained that through the joint efforts of the Sustainability Consortium, funded in part by Walmart and drawing resources from Arizona State and the University of Arkansas, Walmart will begin amassing environmental data on their products in preparation for the time “when their customers demand it.” In other words, the way in which it was presented to the SVN, the motivation behind collecting all this data is to provide Walmart/Sam’s Club customers with information about the sustainability of the products they buy. Walmart is unable to comment, however, on how this information will be presented to their customers; all that was stated is this is a goal that is currently underway, done only to meet the assumed demands of their customers in the future.

There are several “teams” working on these pilots—one working with the electronics sector, another for food and beverage sector, and yet another for the homecare sector.

A new team member then approached the podium and explained the approach of the Consortium as follows:

The Consortium looks to (1) use science to (2) develop standards for measurement in order to (3) allow for accurate reporting that will inform the retailers’ (4) sourcing standards; consequentially, providing their customers and community with more sustainable products.

It was concluded that Walmart wants to be able to understand the sustainability performance of its products in order to begin rewarding truly sustainable manufacturers.

I will provide a summary of the last part of the Walmart SVN meeting early next week. Have a great weekend!!!!

Walmart SVN, feedback 1:3

January 21, 2011

Hello and happy Friday! I am taking a much-needed break from sketching Dordan’s new website “information architecture,” which is really just a fancy way of saying website organization and navigation. For those of you who are considering launching a new website or redesigning an existing one, I thoroughly recommend the following—I would have had no idea what to do without these sources!

Steve Krug’s Don’t Make me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Rosenfeld’s and Morville’s Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

As an aside, yesterday I went to The Brat Stop, which is sort of a historical icon on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin in Kenosha. It was AWESOME—I felt like I walked into an 80’s movie! I had the best garlic Bratwurst that I piled sky-high with raw onions! If you are ever in the area, I suggest you make a stop—the fried cheese curds are reason enough!

OH, and while there, I discovered this wonderful piece of art: a 3D sculpture of the Chicago Bear mascot hung with a noose. Those jerks…we will see Sunday; Go BEARS!

OK, so today I’m going to discuss the Walmart Sustainable Value Network meeting I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, December 14th, 2010. For those of you unfamiliar, Walmart hosts bi-annual meetings for its “preferred suppliers,” wherein members are updated on Walmart’s sustainability initiatives. These meetings also serve as a platform where suppliers can asks questions and get answers in real time.

Shall we begin?

December 14th, 2010
Sam’s Clubs Headquarters, Rogers, Arkansas
Walmart’s winter SVN meeting

The first topic introduced at the meeting was the new “Sustainability Leadership” team at Walmart. For various reasons, there had been some dramatic restructuring of the sustainability team. New names were introduced, accompanied by new faces and punctual speeches.

After each new team member had said his/her part, the host began explaining some revisions to the metrics of the Walmart Scorecard.

To begin, the Scorecard was put into its intended context; that is, to assist suppliers in helping Walmart achieve its 20 million metric ton GHG emissions reduction target via overall packaging reductions, among other things. Consider the following statements:

By January 2011, Walmart suppliers should provide companywide emissions reductions through packaging improvements.

By mid 2012, SKU-level reductions in emissions for companies/divisions/and categories should be reported.

The reporting audience is intended to be a compilation of the following: The buyer/supplier/management/SVN/etc.

I do not know what the status of these suggestions are, however.

Next, the host explained that contrary to popular belief, it is not just Scorecard completion that will influence a suppliers’ standing within the system, but the result of how the supplier uses the Scorecards’ data output. In other words, in completing one’s Scores, a supplier is granted access into how to improve said Score; be it through changing materials or the way in which the fulfilled package cubes out, it is only when you complete a Score that you can begin to understand how to improve it.

Next was an explanation of the “cube utilization” metric within the packaging Scorecard; this attempts to quantify how the relationship between the product volume and package AND fulfilled package and transport packaging informs its overall supply chain efficiency and therefore sustainability.

Previously suppliers had been required to provide the cube utilization for the selling unit and transport unit. In other words, you first had to determine the ratio between product and package in the context of volume for the selling unit i.e. fulfilled package, AND the ratio between the packed out product and its transport shipping in the context of volume. In a nut shell: cube utilization tries to see how efficiently the product exists within the package and how efficiently the package exists within the transport packaging.

NOW, in the name of simplicity, suppliers only have to provide information on the selling unit cube utilization, thereby eliminating an entire calculation of transport cube utilization. These are the notes I have from this discussion; hopefully you can make more sense out of them than I can…

Cube utilization:

Selling unit + transport unity–> pallet load efficiency

*Volume of transportation cube utilization

Volume of transport unit/volume of product

Next, the host explained that while previously suppliers had to enter two separate Scores for the merchandise unit and the unit for sale, now they only have to enter one for the unit for sale. In other words, instead of having the supplier treat the same product that is sold in different parts of the same store as two different products by entering two different Scores, now the supplier can report one Score, for both SKUs. After all, the selling unit is the same if it is sold as a unit for sale within its category or as a promotional merchandise unit; therefore, why double the work?

Lastly, it was articulated that Walmart now has devoted an entire team to helping suppliers with the Scorecard, contacted via the retail link of the Scorecard support. Seeing as how the above described changes to the Scorecard metrics are just as impossible to write about as they are to truly understand, I am glad that Walmart has made this investment!

Tune in Monday to learn about updates with Walmart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment, its latest goals, and its Sustainability Index!

Have a great weekend. And go BEARS!!!

Helllllllooooo all! Guess what: Dordan is now tweeting! I have always been a little slow to jump on the latest and greatest techie endeavor: personally I didn’t join facebook until I was studying abroad and had strep throat and was feeling a little… disconnected. Same goes with Twitter. However, as the marketing manager at Dordan, I have been researching like crazy on how to create and nourish an integrated marketing campaign; and, everything I have read emphasizes the need for a presence in the social networking sphere of our ever-expanding media cosmos. So I began tweeting, and it’s really fun! In the last two days, Dordan has 15 new followers—most of which are green organizations or packaging publications—and its super cool because I can read all about their efforts and they can read all about Dordan’s. Soooo, now that I have jumped on the bandwagon, “Follow us on Twitter”!

Alright, all sorts of exciting stuff at Dordan!

We have begun composting our food and yard waste. Check out our cute compost bins, which are located in the cafeteria and the office, to collect food scraps and other compostable materials, like paper towels.

If you are trying to decide what kind of bin to get to collect food scraps for composting, I would suggest something with a lid, to keep the smell in and allow ease of disposal. Also, it is convenient to have something that locks the bag in place, which again, allows for easier disposal and maintenance.

So far everyone at Dordan is doing a great job segregating out the compostable material (organic matter) from the non-compostable material, like glass, aluminum, and animal products. We had a bit of a hiccup because I thought we could compost everything food related, except meat and bones, which resulted in someone discarding cheese in the bin and boy was it stinky!!! So now the compost bins are accepting no animal products, including dairy, and the office is happy. Hurray!

While we have only been collecting food scraps for composting for a week, we already have a little pile, which I have mixed with yard waste (fall is a great time to start composting!), and am observing daily. Yesterday I stuck my hand into the composter (not the decaying matter) and felt heat, which I think is a good sign. AND, because Dordan has sampled some bio-based and certified “OK to Home Compost” resins, we tossed some scrap into the mix, to see if the material does in fact biodegrade in the marketed time. Check out the photo:

Obviously you can’t see much, but our modest but growing compost pile is under the green bio-based/compostable material. I will be sure to update you with pictures as the material begins to break down. Neat!

Ummmm Pack Expo begins next week; yikes! In preparation for our Bio-Resin Show N Tell, we have collected all pertinent information for the several alternative resins we have sampled this year, and thermoformed the material so attendees can decide for themselves what they think of the latest thermoformable bio-based/compostable resins. And, for your viewing please, check out the photos below:

This material is cellulous acetate, which means that it derives its feedstock from cellulous, as opposed to fossil fuel. It is certified to biodegrade in home compost piles and industrial composting facilities, and is classified as a paper product if sold into a country with EPR legislation on the books.

This stuff is a cornstarch-based product that is, according to the supplier, “renewable, biodegradable, home compostable, and water dispersible.” Because it can break down in water, which is crazy, it actually absorbs water from the air, which makes processing it super tricky, see:

This guy is PHA…I honestly don’t know much about PHA vs. PLA because I have not gone through the research yet. It is marketed as biodegradable in home composts, industrial composting facilities, marine environments, and basically anywhere else, like the side of the road. Crazy! It actually looks kind of cool…

Next we got a starch based resin, which is certified to biodegrade in industrial composting facilities:

Last, a PLA sample, which I don’t have a picture of…but use your imagination.

So ya, I think it will be a pretty cool exhibit because not only are we actually showing the bio resins we have sampled this year, but we are presenting all sorts of crucial information, like what kind of certifications the materials have, what kind of disposal environments the materials are intended for i.e. industrial composting facility vs. marine biodegradation, price points, performance, specs, etc.

Ok, I got to go; Oh, but check out my SupplierHub blog contribution below. I haven’t received approval yet from the blog designer, so I don’t know if this will be THE blog contribution, but it’s what I came up with thus far…

It is a very exciting time for business ethics: the Milton Friedmanian notion that the only responsibility of a corporation is to increase the profit of its shareholders is now being reconstructed; thrown into the mix is a new desire for corporate responsibility—from consumers and CPGs/retailers alike—in both the social, economic, and environmental spheres.

The domestic packaging industry was first introduced to issues of sustainability with the release of the Wal-Mart Scorecard in 2006. For the first time in history, packaging was being assessed not only on aesthetics, quality, efficiency and cost, but “sustainability.” The dialogue around packaging and sustainability continued to evolve and reached new heights with the formation of the Global Packaging Project from the Global CEO Forum and other industry associations in 2008. In the summer 2010, the GPP released 52 metrics for assessing the sustainability of a package within a global dialogue, taking into consideration those packaging metrics found in the Walmart Packaging Scorecard and SPC’s metrics for assessing sustainable packaging, among others.

What the GPP’s metrics make clear is the need for corporate transparency, not only from packaging suppliers, but the whole supply chain, in the context of environmental and social performance. By requiring certain sets of information from your suppliers, Private Brand suppliers to Walmart can enjoy increased ease of reporting, compliance, and performance on the Packaging Scorecard; which consequentially, will facilitate the continued assessment and therefore improvement of the Supply Chain Score.

Things you should require from their packaging suppliers:

Knowledge of Scorecard metrics: Packaging suppliers should demonstrate proficiency with the metrics of the Walmart Scorecard in order to understand how to design and manufacture the most eco-efficient package based on the specific product requirements. Private Brand suppliers should encourage that their packaging providers be well versed with the Software in order to demonstrate reduction in Scores with any new package proposal/redesign.

Documentation validating all environmental claims:

According to the FTC Green Guides, for a package to be labeled “recyclable,” “the majority of consumers/communities” must have access to facilities that recycle that type of package. If a packaging supplier claims their package is “recyclable,” documentation should be provided, like recovery rates for the packaging type via the US EPA’s MSW data.
For a package to be marketed as “reusable,” packaging suppliers should present evidence that said packaging type has a system for post consumer collection and reuse.

For a package to be marketed as “biodegradable,”/”compostable” packaging suppliers should present qualifying information, like in what disposal environment does said packaging type “biodegrade”/”compost” i.e. industrial composting facility, marine environments, etc. Depending on the disposal environment cited, proper certification should be presented i.e. ASTM D6400 for industrial composting.

Understanding of life cycle of package: Packaging suppliers should demonstrate an understanding of the life cycle impacts of their packaging designs and manufacturing processes. Life stages encouraged for consideration include: manufacture, conversion, end of life, and distribution. Tools like the SPC’s comparative packaging modeling software COMPASS allow packaging suppliers to quantify the life cycle impacts of a packaging design; as such, Private Brand suppliers should encourage their packaging suppliers to provide LCA data demonstrating consideration of their packaging’s life cycle.

With all things considered, Private Brand suppliers should encourage their packaging suppliers to be transparent and accountable for all environmental claims made, packaging produced, and distribution channels utilized. Tools like the Walmart Scorecard, COMPASS, knowledge of the FTC Green Guides, and an understanding of contemporary developments in packaging and sustainability should be considered by packaging suppliers in order to make your job as Private Brand suppliers easier in the context of packaging procurement.

Happy Monday Funday! I hope the weather is as beautiful for you as it is for me—sunny and 70, what more can a girl ask for?

 SO where were we…that’s right, recapping the SPC spring meeting.

Oh, before I forget, there was one more thing I wanted to tell you about the Walmart Expo.

Prior to the Expo, in preparation for the Walmart SVN meeting (Sustainable Value Network), we were asked to do a little homework: this entailed going to a local Walmart and finding a package that needed a “sustainability makeover.” We were supposed to fill out a “packaging opportunities template,” which basically inquired into how one would redesign the package to increase its environmental profile while saving costs. This is what our team came up with:

PackagingOpportunitiesTemplate, FINAL

We decided to pick on a thermoformed package because we are thermoformers, although this one looks as though it was manufactured overseas, due to the perimeter sealing. Therefore, it’s not like we would be able to steal the business…I wonder what the sustainability profile is of an overseas manufacturer versus a domestic supplier…Ha!

Anywhoozy, it turns out that during the SVN meeting several of these “packaging opportunities” were to be presented to the entire conference—and guess what—I was one of the lucky four selected to present.

Basically I suggested that the package be right-sized and thermoformed out of RPET instead of PVC. The panel then inquired into how I would convey the same marketing presence with a reduced package AND prevent against pilferage. I was stumped. Perhaps include a recyclable paperboard backing, I offered? That totally stunk, however, because it suggested that paperboard is more “sustainable” than plastic, which I would not argue having performed extensive research on the topic. AND, according to the recent E.P.A. reports, the paperboard used in clamshell alternatives (labeled “other paperboard packaging” in the MSW report) HAS NO RECOVERY DATA—literally it is listed as neg., which means negligent. I wish I had known this during my presentation as it would have served our industry well. Rats!

Visit http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2008data.pdf to see the break down of what is recycled and what is not in the paper world.

I guess my obsession with the recycle-ability of paperboard versus thermoforms can be summed up as follows:

I am at the Walmart Expo, working the booth. A prospect comes by, with whom I have had casual conversation in the past. Having seen his product at a competitor’s booth, I hassle him saying, “I saw your thermoformed trays at our competitor’s booth…and here you have been blowing me off all year…not very nice!” And he responds with, “we are getting out of thermoformed trays because they are not recycled.”

UG! What do you say to that? Prior to knowing that paperboard, which would be the alternative used for his packaging application, has no data for recovery post-consumer according to the E.P.A., I assumed that it was the more sustainable material because of its end-of-life recovery. But now that I know that in most cases, both thermoformed trays AND paperboard trays end up in landfills, I should have articulated a better argument for why thermoformed trays are still a wonderful packaging option.

It’s like when you have some kind of social confrontation and find yourself tongue-tied only to later come up with the best “come-back” ever! That’s what this was like; I needed a good come back, both for the “packaging opportunities” presentation and the fellow who thinks paperboard is better due to its end of life recovery. Next time…

A couple other points about the Walmart Expo:

As discussed in a previous post, the Walmart Scorecard has a “transport module,” which takes into account the inputs/outputs of shipping a package from the point of conversion/manufacture to the point of fulfillment. Supposedly the filled packages’ journey to the point of purchase is covered in another metric…

Anyway, I asked if the scorecard takes into account/intends to take into account the environmental ramifications of overseas manufacturers versus domestic manufactures. After all, long before my appointment at Dordan, we lost business to China because of the super duper low prices of labor and therefore commodities. And considering all this sustainability jazz, one would think that sourcing domestically would have some kind of impact on ones Score (think shipping, environmental regulations, labor regulations, etc. in China versus the States)…unfortunately, that is not the case. According to a member of the SVN, Walmart considered having a “point of origin” metric but determined that it was unquantifiable and would not resonate with their suppliers. Go figure!

A SVN member then articulated the following inquiry, which tickled me pink: Is the Scorecard going to take into account the inks, laminates, and sealants used on paperboard packaging? The member who voiced this inquiry qualified this question with some data, specifically, that even the tiny amounts of hazardous material in these various substances can have a high toxicity on the social and environmental environments.

This inquiry was answered as follows: Again, they considered adding this metric into the Scorecard but did not because they didn’t believe that these factors had a large enough effect on the overall “environmental profile” of a package. Supposedly, if we prove otherwise, they will consider adding this metric into the scorecard…

Lastly, Walmart is rolling out their Scorecard to other countries. I asked if each Scorecard used different recovery rates depending on the country it was being utilized for. In other words, Canada has a better recovery rate for most packaging materials that the U.S.; therefore, is their Scorecard going to use Canadian recovery data or American? According to the SVN, each Scorecard will be country specific, using recovery data from the country considered.

Wow, another marathon of an email. I’m sorry to keep rambling, I just have so many thoughts! I will continue tomorrow with the SPC recap and quickly move into resuming my clamshell recycling initiative.

Go packaging!

Recap # 2: Walmart Expo

April 27, 2010

Greetings world! I feel like a million bucks—finally cleaned my office and organized all the information I gathered the last several weeks traveling. I will now resume my diligent blogging!

Soooo, where did I leave off? That’s right, I still need to fill you all in on the Walmart Expo in Arkansas.

Well, first of all, Arkansas is really nice! The drive from the airport to Bentonville was beautiful—very lush and it smelled so good! It appears as though the entire town of Rogers-Bentonville has been created to sustain the Walmart community, which is crazy! All the main buyers and movers and shakers for and to Walmart live around the headquarters, which must make company outings easy and enjoyable! Everyone we met was super duper nice and the whole “dry county” thing didn’t really apply because every restaurant we went to suggested you “sign in” thereby giving the establishment the status of a “club” and consequentially allowing them to serve us booze!

The Expo itself was really exciting! It being my first time “working the booth” I was thrilled to get in front of the packaging community and talk about Dordan and all our exciting new happenings! All the passerbyers were, again, super awesome and polite and all in all it was a good show! I got to see some old packaging buddies from the SPC and meet more people within the industry. Because I have only been to one or two other conferences, I was surprised to run into people that I had met previously—I didn’t realize what a small community the sustainable packaging realm was!

Check out our beaut of a booth:

AND all the Walmarters are really, really nice. Some of the top guys came by our booth and asked how the show went and thanked us for coming. We couldn’t believe the hospitality of the entire event and look forward to participating next year! If any of you Walmarters are reading, thanks again, we had a blast!

It was really cool too because our engineers had JUST finished running our samples that we designed for the Expo literally hours before we flew out of Chicago, which gave us the ammo we needed to initiate conversations with anyone. They looked great and showcased our thermoforming capabilities; and, demonstrated the different materials we were now offering! Basically it is a fancy business card holder with cool engravings and what not and the tray is made out of a bio-based, certified compostable resin and the lid is made from supplier-certified 100% PCR PET, which derives its feedstock entirely out of bottles post-consumer. We found that having something tangible to give to passerbyers really helped initiate discussion and we got a lot of attention because of the clarity of the PCR PET. For those of you not familiar, high concentrations of post-consumer content in PET often times give the resin a sort of orangy-brown tint; our source for 100% PCR PET, however, ensures a level of clarity that we have not been able to find elsewhere. In a nut shell: Good times all around.

This is a sort of poopy picture of our sample offer; but you get the idea:

Yum!

During the Expo there were education sessions, too. I found the content of these sessions very interesting and compiled my notes to debrief our sales and marketing departments upon my return. I have included these notes below, FYI.

Walmart Expo Summary:

  • Scorecard seminar, misc.
    • ECRM created the software for the Walmart Scorecard
      • “Efficient collaborative retail marketing”
    • Direct suppliers are REQUIRED to enter packages into scorecard
      • Via “retail link” i.e. per vendor number and item number
      • Allows you to compare with packages in same product category i.e. dairy. ECRM is working to narrow the categories down so you are only compared with direct competitors.
    • Indirect suppliers do not have access to retail link.
    • Focus of Score: Material type, material weight, material distance, packaging efficiency
      • Distance: the point the package travels from point of conversion to point of fulfillment.
    • Completion rate of Scores:
      • Each item sold in Walmart has its own number. Suppliers are required to fill out a Score for each item number. Currently, COMPLETION of scores is the easiest way to influence purchasing decisions. In other words, suppliers that have more than 85% of their Scores completed receive an “A” in the Walmart world; suppliers that have 55% complete receive a “B;” everything below comes up as a “red flag” in Walmart-internal. 
    • Package modeling software: Different than the Score card but formatted the same way; this is what we subscribe to.
      • Intended for indirect suppliers to utilize the modeling software in such a way that they can approach their customers (direct suppliers to Walmart) and explain how by doing X you can improve your score and here is the proof.
      • “Reversed engineering;” encouraged doing this on competitor’s packages, too.
  • Paperboard Packaging Council seminar, misc:
    • Fiber-based packaging is a by-product of the lumber industry? I need to look into this…
    • I asked why the recovery rates for corrugated were higher than paperboard…
      • Answer: Difference is attributed to post-industrial collection (corrugate) vs. post-consumer (paperboard). I need to examine this further.
    • Fibers can be recycled 6-8 times before the fibers become too small to reprocess
    • China currently buys most of our post-consumer mixed paper and reprocesses it; we need to find a domestic source for recycled fibers.
    • All corrugated has 46% post-industrial content in the U.S.
    • SBS is almost ALWAYS virgin fiber, with the omission of MWV’s Natralock.
    • I asked what the difference in energy demands are for virgin vs. recycled paper; I received a very ambiguous answeràapparently a controversial topic.
  • Plastic fundamentals seminar:
    • Discussed the benefits of plastic such as:
      • Keeps food fresher for longer;
      • Lightweight;
      • Didn’t address fossil fuel consumption;
      • Didn’t discuss MSW rates;
      • Did say that recycling for non bottle-PET has grown from 7.5% to 11% in the last year;
    • ACC supports re-writing the Toxics Control Act, which we referenced in our first Newsletter.
    • The ACC released LCI data on RPET and recycled HDPE. HURRAY!
  • SVN meeting:
    • There are a ton of different organizations that Walmart has its involvement in; I will try to explain the various relationships as follows:
      • ISTA—transit assessment; I don’t know what this is.
      • Global Packaging Project: Walmart funds this but is not the only CPG company on the board; this looks for a GLOBAL metric for assessing the sustainability of packages and product; this is bigger than the Scorecard, as the Scorecard will be a component of these metrics; the metrics used will be country-specific. This grew out of the CONSUMER GOODS FORUM, which was originally called the GLOBAL CEO FORUM. The GPP metrics look to take into account the Scorecard metrics, COMPASS, and other existing and legitimate metrics. If one wants the inclusion of another metric, it must be reviewed for application prior to being incorporated into the GPP metrics.
      • ISO project for Sustainable Packaging: I don’t know.
      • Scorecard: For packaging only; scores based on ITEM level.
      • Supplier Sustainability Assessment: Consists of 15 questions, which are asked of all product suppliers to Walmart; “scores” based on CORPORATE level.
      • Sustainability Index: the Assessment is part of the Sustainability Index, which is a project of the Sustainability Consortium. Again, Walmart funds this organization but is not the only CPGs company that participates.
  • Points of discussion:
    • “Sustainable material” metric: What does this mean? What are the limitations?
      • Should everyone get the same “score” until clarified?
      • Should we remove the metric?
      • Is Recovery taken into consideration?
      • Is it a LCA approach?
      • Does it consider conversion or primary production?
      • What about toxics?
      • Sourcing certificates?
    • Determined that it would be helpful to have a health and safety metric AND a sustainable sourcing metric.
    • Should inks/adhesives be included in GPP and Scorecard?
      • Not until proof that it has an impactàI have proof and will see that it gets into the right person’s hands.

Sorry if the format of my notes are a little confusing. Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these points or provide clarification.

AND I met a gentleman that gave me a PLETHORA of information about non-bottle plastic recycling and I am forever indebted to him. Seriously, good stuff and AMAZING feedback in regard to the various approaches I was considering for our clamshell recycling initiative. Once I get through recapping my recent travels, I will resume my clamshell recycling narrative. I think we are getting somewhere

Stay tuned!