SUSTAINABILITY: Metrics Help CPG Companies Improve Eco-friendly Packaging

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SUSTAINABILITY: Metrics Help CPG Companies Improve Eco-friendly Packaging

Following almost two years of extensive research and stakeholder engagement, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) has issued its Sustainable Packaging Indicators and Metrics Framework Version 1.0, which companies can use to gauge their progress toward the SPC Definition of Sustainable Packaging.

The framework offers a wide-ranging palette of indicators and metrics organized into eight categories dealing with material use, energy use, water use, material health, clean production and transport, cost and performance, community impact, and worker impact. Each module explains how the measurements relate to sustainability efforts, defines each indicator in terms of packaging, specifies the metric to be used and gives recommendations on what to measure.

Based on international standards and protocols, the rigorous technical document was developed by a group of stakeholders representing companies throughout the packaging supply chain. One of SPC’s main motivations for taking on the project was to address marketplace concerns about the glut of the individual company sustainable packaging metrics and scorecards.

“Without consistent guidance, sustainability criteria vary significantly from one company to the next,” explained the framework’s chief author, Katherine O’Dea, senior fellow at Charlottesville, Va.-based GreenBlue, a nonprofit institute dedicated to business sustainability and the founder of SPC. “This lack of coordination has made the data collection process time-consuming and costly for suppliers, as well as making it difficult for companies to consistently benchmark their performance over time. Our hope is the Metrics Framework will standardize how the industry measures its progress toward making packaging more sustainable.”

Selected metrics from the framework will additionally serve as the baseline for the Global Packaging Project (GPP), a Consumer Goods Forum initiative that aims to standardize packaging sustainability measurement through a globally acknowledged set of indicators and metrics with common data request and collection protocols. Pilot testing of the GPP metrics is expected to start in the first half of 2010. The SPC will follow the pilot testing process and incorporate results from it into a Version 2.0 of the framework, so that any indicator and metrics common to both resources will be compatible and consistent in regard to language, data request and collection guidelines, and referenced measurement standards and protocols.

The current framework can be downloaded at