Applying sustainability requirements to packaging suppliers

Applying sustainability requirements to packaging suppliers
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Energy, Materials, Waste
All manufacturing industries, Wholesale and retail
Low cost
Annual saving:
15 - 30 %
Payback time:
1.2 - 1.5 Year(s)
Resource savings: Raw material:
1 000-2 000 tonnes of materials per year (packing materials, paper) can be saved depending on the size of the enterprise and demand
Resource savings: Energy:
Up to 15 %, from 4000 kWh up to 20 000 kWh per year, depending on the size of the enterprise and demand
Resource savings: Water:
3 000-5 000 l per year, depending on the size of the enterprise and demand
Resource savings: Waste:
Up to 200 tonnes per year, depending on the size of the enterprise and demand
Resource savings: Waste water:
2 000-4 000 l per year, depending on the size of the enterprise and demand
Associated cost savings: Energy:
10 - 15%
Associated cost savings: Water:
5 - 15%
Associated cost savings: Waste:
20 - 50%
Associated cost savings: Waste water:
5 - 15%
Premises and operation areas:
Office management, Supply operations
Size of company:
Micro (less than 10), Small (less than 50), Medium (less than 250), Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
What is in it for you:
Increased product quality and better sustainable image. Reduced use of materials and water, reduced waste and unhealthy components.
Descriptive information:

Sustainable packaging may include packaging made from recycled (e.g. paper, plastic) or bio-based materials, reusable packaging, take-back schemes, etc. In order to save resources in line with circular economy and environmental principles, sustainable packaging issues should be integrated into everyday business processes. One of the main preconditions for sustainable packaging development is to reduce its environmental impact while securing food/product quality and safety.

Sustainable packaging requirements for SMEs and their suppliers may become more onerous in the future. Suppliers may be obliged to introduce reusable packaging, including new sustainable design and material structure, in order to reduce waste and promote better separation activities. SMEs might also be urged to work only with companies already using sustainable packaging, which puts bottom-up pressure for change. 

Sustainable actions or changes could include:

  • Minimising the amount of packaging (discuss with the supplier the issue of unused packaging)
  • Reusable/return packaging – take-back mechanism (ask suppliers to take packaging away after the delivery)
  • Increasing the packaging life-cycle by reusing packaging from incoming goods for outgoing goods (recycled 'get-pack-go' delivery system)
  • Introducing already-recycled packaging for future delivery purposes
  • Ensuring that unused packaging is properly recycled (circular economy principles)
  • Applying 'healthier' components into packaging production for product quality within supply chain
  • Taking not only primary but also secondary packaging (e.g. boxes, pallets, crates) into account

Relevant criteria about sustainable packaging should be used when choosing/tendering for suppliers.

The use of sustainable packaging can result in less waste and thus bring not only environmental but also economic benefits. Depending on the size of the SME, economic benefits can be achieved ranging from around € 500 (for small enterprises) up to some € 5 000 (for medium enterprises) per year.


"We have received a lot of interest from the packaging industry and its end-users, as [our] whey protein-coating offers good oxygen barrier properties and can be removed enzymatically, thus the resulting multilayer films present greatly improved recyclability." Wheylayer

"Our goal is to do profitable business in the long term with strong ethical and responsible values, including economic, human, social and environmental issues. Our responsibility is to make sure that the basic values of the company are carried out in our daily activities." Antalis

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