When it comes to sustainability, waiting is not an option

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.  


One of the many reasons our teams love working at Avery Dennison is that there is no pause button here. We never stop moving, never stop innovating, never stop looking at future scenarios. We don’t just want to disrupt our industry; we want to disrupt ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to sustainability. 

Already this year, even amidst the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, we’ve advanced four important sustainability initiatives in which the Label and Graphic Materials (LGM) team is playing an important part.

Most recently, we announced three new, enterprisewide corporate sustainability goals that we are aiming to achieve by 2030. We have committed to :

  • Deliver innovations that advance the circular economy;

  • Reduce environmental impact in our operations and supply chain; and 

  • Make a positive social impact by improving the livelihoods of people and communities. 

Those of you paying close attention might wonder what happened to the 2025 sustainability goals we set in 2015 and have reported against since. The short answer is that they haven’t gone anywhere. We’re still intent on meeting them. In fact, we’ve already significantly exceeded our 2025 goal for reducing GHG emissions —and we are making solid progress on the rest, which will remain in place alongside our new 2030 goals. Our new goals are expanding our ambitions. 

The new goals give us higher targets to shoot for; they raise the bar. At the same time, they are broad enough to offer flexibility in how we reach them. And they align better with the world’s most urgent environmental challenges, which look a bit different today than they did in 2015. Awareness of plastics pollution, for example, is much greater today than it was six years ago. 

The specific targets under each of our new goals are ambitious. Among other things, they call for 100% of LGM’s standard products to contain recycled or renewable content. They call for us to offer laminates enabling plastics circularity in every single region where we have a presence. And they call for us to procure paper exclusively from responsibly managed forests to help create a deforestation-free future. All of this, and more, within the next nine years. 

Even as we set out toward these new goals, we are looking beyond them. In announcing them, we also declared our ambition to achieve net-zero on carbon emissions by 2050. 

None of this will be easy. Achieving our new goals will be the greatest test yet of our capacity for innovation. Yet I have zero doubt in my mind that we will succeed. Solving seemingly intractable problems, coming at them through an iterative mindset and collaboration with partners, customers, end-users and suppliers—all of it is at the heart of what our materials scientists and manufacturing engineers do every day, and it will be the recipe to our success on sustainability. 

That very approach was key to our launch of AD Circular digital platform in Europe in February. AD Circular lets companies easily schedule pickup and recycling of used label liners made by any manufacturer, at a cost that is about the same as existing waste disposal services. We are proud of the program and its potential for recycling far more of the hundreds of kilotons of label liners that European companies use every year. Initial feedback from customers, end-users and others has been very positive.

Two other noteworthy sustainability developments are happening at the product level. One is the imminent release of the latest version of our groundbreaking CleanFlakeTM portfolio of filmic label constructions. CleanFlake™ has evolved from a solution for PET bottles to one for a broad range of PET packages in markets as diverse as food and beverage, beauty, and home and personal care. By enabling labels and adhesives to completely separate from PET packages during recycling, CleanFlake™ helps ensure that more PET packages are recycled into new PET containers instead of being downcycled or sent to landfills or incinerators. And it does so without compromising label printability or performance. 

The other launch we’re really excited about is the expansion of our rRange—the industry’s broadest selection of label constructions made with recycled materials. Collections in the range are made with up to 100% recycled content. That includes the recycled plastic we transform into our filmic rPP labels, the recycled paper in our rDT products, the recycled resin that goes into our rPE labels, and even the grape skins leftover from winemaking that we use to make the paper labels in our Crush Range. Here, too, all of these solutions perform the same—or close to it—as materials without recycled content, enabling brands to meet increasingly ambitious sustainability targets while still getting the look, feel, and functionality that’s right for their package. 

All in all, a good start to the year. And these are just some of our sustainability advancements so far. Earlier this month, we also launched our Future of Plastics campaign, which advocates for an approach that is both pragmatic and progressive—one that acknowledges the role of plastics in our lives while pushing for systems and solutions that use plastics smarter, and for advancements in removing plastic from the environment. We’ll be at the center of all of these efforts. I’ll tell you more in a future update. For now, check out the Future of Plastics content hub, which we’ll be updating regularly. 

Sustainability is central to our purpose as a values-driven company. We believe it is also central to our long-term financial success. There’s plenty of data to suggest that sustainability will define the future of our business, as regulators, brands and consumers all demand sustainable packaging. What turns such dry projections about the future into meaningful societal impact, a leadership position in the market, and returns for all stakeholders our deep rooted conviction in sustainability as good business. At Avery Dennison, we are determined about achieving sustainability for our company and the companies that use our products, and, beyond that, about regenerating and restoring natural ecosystems. You can see this in a small sample of our work during the first half of 2021. This is just the beginning and a lot of work remains ahead of us. We relish the challenge—and because we don’t think there is any time to waste. The time to do it is now.