Avery Dennison Corp. has set a target for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. At the same time, the big designer and maker of labels and related materials is raising the bar on sustainability and social responsibility goals to be achieved by 2030, including deforestation-free manufacturing. In this conversation with SupplyChainBrain Editor-in-Chief Bob Bowman, Renae Kezar, senior director of global sustainability, discusses the progress of the company’s initiative.
SCB: What are Avery Dennison's sustainability goals for 2030?
Kezar: We just launched them. They’re an extension of our current 2025 goals. They're in three larger categories. The first is advancing our circular economy, the second is reducing our environmental impact, and the third is having a positive impact in the communities in which we operate.
SCB: What kinds of innovations are you contemplating to advance the circular economy?
Kezar: We operate primarily in two industries: packaging and apparel. On the packaging side, the area in which I lead sustainability for Avery, we're looking to increase our recycled and renewable content across our core portfolio. We’re transitioning from some niche products that have recycled content, to introducing recycled and renewable content into the core of our business.
The second area, which is equally important, is end of life. We do labeling for a lot of single-use packaging. We want to make sure we have products available in each region around the world that enables reconcilability at end of life for all packaging. And lastly, we're combining our expertise in packaging with our intelligent labeling business unit. With intelligent labeling, you can have increased transparency, smarter recycling and more information for the consumer to understand where the package came from. We’re looking to integrate that intelligent labeling capability into our current products.
SCB: What exactly is “intelligent” labeling?
Kezar: It can come in form of a barcode or RFID tag — it’s a way to hold information within the label. One example could be for smart recycling. The label can carry the information —this is HDPE, this is polyethylene. So when you get to the recycling process, we can integrate information that helps to reduce contamination. Another example could be authentication of the source. A lot of times in paper labeling we'll get questions around where the pulp was sourced. As you move through a supply chain, that information can quite easily get lost. With something like an RFID tag, you can carry information about where the tree was cut down, in what forest of what country, all the way to the end consumer. It provides transparency throughout the supply chain.
SCB: Are there other initiatives that come under the category of reducing environmental impact from operations and the supply chain?
Kezar: In addition to some of those things we just talked about, the spirit of the second goal is to look at ourselves. We're global; we're a pretty big manufacturing company. So it’s important to make sure that what we're doing within our facilities is the most efficient way. We're looking at further reductions of our own Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, as well as putting forward the target of getting to net zero. We’ve already started some projects around the decarbonization of our own operations. In our paper sourcing, we've always had 100% certified paper, but we’re moving to a deforestation-free source and continued efforts around landfill-free, as well as increasing the recycling of byproduct within our own facilities.
The final two aspects aren’t necessarily specific to Avery Dennison’s manufacturing, but to our supply base. It’s understanding what water-efficiency targets look like for our supply chain, and making sure we're as connected to that as we are to Scope 3 emissions as suppliers. In addition, we’re continuing to invest in monitoring our supply base across environmental, social and human rights practices.
SCB: That brings us to the third part — making a positive social impact by improving the livelihoods of people in communities. How do you intend to achieve that goal?
Kezar: We actually adjusted this topic a bit. With so many dynamics going on industry and in our communities, we want to be more focused and specific around diversity and inclusion targets. Before, we had a diversity target about females in management positions, so we've expanded that to also include inclusion.
SCB: How do you plan to do that?
Kezar: The plans are being set now. We have diversity and inclusion councils in each region around the world, to identify the key areas and questions we want to focus on, especially for inclusion. How are we going to measure it? How are we going to have a pulse on the business? What does that look like? It's been a huge source of employee engagement, getting them engaged in improving the communities in which they live and work.
SCB: Do you have a timetable for this effort?
Kezar: It’s not about setting 10-year goals and checking in annually, or every five years. We always say, "If we can't measure it, we're probably not going to work on it." So we set quarterly targets each year, to see what progress we can make, even in the near term, toward the 2030 target.
SCB: What do you imagine will be the biggest challenge that you face in achieving these goals?
Kezar: All of this is pretty interrelated. One area impacts another. I think the biggest challenge as an industry is figuring out how to get to net zero or even carbon positive. How do you weave together all of these initiatives? Getting to net-zero emissions involves a combination of recycled and renewable content, along with end-of-life packaging, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing the types of materials we're using to the minimum of what we need to perform.
Right now we’re working on our Climate Impact Program. It’s taking these interrelated goals, drawing a process map and measuring the carbon along the way. As with any organization, it's a variety of functions all talking to one another, trying to understand a topic that’s pretty new for a lot of people. There are a lot of conversations around guidelines for achieving net zero, and we can't all be measuring it in different ways. As we're going through the decarbonization process, we’re keeping an eye on what standards or guidelines are going to be set over the course of the next few years.
SCB: That takes you up to 2030. Your ultimate goal is net-zero emissions by 2050, right?
Kezar: Yes. We set goals for 2030, but we aren't stopping our sights there. We're really trying to understand what it’s going to take to get to net zero. That deadline might happen earlier than 2050. We have a certain checkpoint by 2030, but if we can go faster, we will.
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