Do you have what it takes to reach your sustainability goals?

A strategic vision for even the smallest packaging components - like the label - is crucial

Over the past ten years, sustainability has become a major topic amongst businesses worldwide, with most, if not all, of the largest companies boasting lofty sustainability pledges. 

According to Harvard Business School, 90% of companies on the S&P 500 index published a CSR report in 2019, compared to just 20% in 2011, and roughly one-third of Europe's largest public companies have their sights set on reaching net zero by 2050.

Reckitt has established an ambitious plan to reduce its chemical footprint by 65% and a goal of 50% of net revenue from more sustainable products by 2030. Additionally, they’ve identified three focus areas for packaging that enables a more circular economy.

To achieve these goals, Krzysztof Krajewski, Packaging Sustainability Director Hygiene at Reckitt, works with the R&D team, composed of various packaging experts throughout the company, to drive a sustainable packaging strategy. Together they convert packaging from Reckitt's base portfolio into more sustainable options and innovate for the future.

How are you involved in the decisions involving sustainable packaging?  

I was pleased to be among the first members of Reckitt's Plastics Working Group, established in 2018 to tackle plastic pollution. I offer my technical expertise to support global sustainable packaging strategy for our brands and draft roadmaps toward long-term delivery on our pledge. My team and I identify the initiatives that have the most significant impact and deliver the highest metric tonnes (MT) virgin plastic reduction or transformation potential. 

Within our Polymer Science division, my role is to ensure we have a healthy balance between short, medium, and long-term scientific projects that ultimately deliver meaningful breakthroughs and ambitious visionary innovations in the pursuit of more effective plastic solutions.

What are your key focus areas that help Reckitt meet its sustainability goals? 

We have continually reduced the weight of our components, composed of polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), PP, and other polymers. But now, we need to act faster and make more meaningful transformational changes. Breakthrough reduction by product concentration, compaction, and material replacement is topping every FMCG company agenda. Other priorities include low CO2 emitting mechanical recycling, enabling recyclability through sustainable product design, and testing reuse models.

How do you consider the label during the packaging design process?

The label has several important roles to play in relation to sustainable packaging, and we consider them all when working on new product innovations.

  • We ensure the label will not impede the recyclability of the main component it's attached to. For example, in countries where Near Infrared (NIR) is the standard sorting method, we make sure the label will not mislead the sorting sensors and divert the main component from the designated path for recycling by being made out of a different material than the main component itself. Here also, shape and the size of the label play a role.

  • We choose label materials that cause the least amount of potential contamination or downgrade the quality of the reprocessed material for future applications. Incompatible label material may even completely disqualify the component for recycling. 

  • We pay close attention to other decorations, such as the type and amount of inks, coatings, and varnishes, as these can also hinder the sustainability of our packaging.

Finally, the label has another important role in sustainability communication. Labels deliver sustainability claims, recycling logos and disposal instructions, and explanations of sustainable material choices, which must be done in the most intuitive and easy-to-read manner.

We consider all of these factors when selecting label materials. We aim to choose the label type, materials, and decoration tailored explicitly to the main component. There is no single solution that fits all. 

The entire packaging assembly must be in harmony. Therefore, when validating our new designs we ensure that they have better footprints than their predecessors, are certified by our partner organizations, such as RecyClass (where appropriate) and meet consumers' expectations in their search for sustainable packaging. 

As you can see, a small element with a relatively low weight can have a huge impact on the recyclability of the complete packaging!


What recent sustainable packaging initiative are you most proud of, and how did it move you closer to your sustainability goals?

We've had several successes. For example, I'm really proud of what our Finish brand has achieved over the years. We launched the first stand-up pouch made out of PE in 2019 -- one of the first of its kind in this product category. Then two years later, we added 30% PCR into those already technically recyclable pouches. 

And just now, in November 2022, Finish will become the first automatic dishwashing product to develop paper-based packaging! This packaging innovation will reduce plastic by 75% -- a first for automatic dishwashing products. 

Can you share the struggles of developing the paper-based stand-up pouch and how you overcame them?

This was a very challenging project – believe me! First, the packaging industry is a combination of many different industries. They have their objectives and economic models that pose recyclability challenges. When considering a change in your packaging material, you must look at the bigger picture beyond just one industry. Another challenge is geographical differences, as every country has variations in how they organize and recycle waste. Because we were designing packaging for a global project, we had to ensure our design was compatible with as many recycling techniques throughout the EU as possible. Ultimately, the most important thing was to achieve a positive net impact on sustainability by reducing plastic, our carbon footprint and increasing recyclability rates. 

How do you ensure the success of your sustainable packaging initiatives? 

To increase the success rate of all our initiatives, we perform environmental due diligence and lifecycle assessments before launching. To guarantee the success of sustainable packaging, we must make sure there is a long-term roadmap of future changes that allow for further improvements. Furthermore, we ensure that we do not negatively impact consumers with complex sustainability messages or with no clear recycling guidelines.



How can brands better incorporate the label in their sustainable packaging decisions?

First, each brand should understand the full complexity of its existing labeling solutions. A robust, sustainable packaging design guideline will help determine whether the current label material is not impeding recyclability and is the best choice for the individual product. Remember, no single solution will fit all, and the label must be tailored to the particular product type. 

How is your company evolving to drive sustainable innovations?   

Through our products, programs, and partnerships, we seek to make a difference in society and the issues the world is battling globally. Our Sustainable Innovation Calculator measures every new innovation, helping us improve our environmental footprint every time and embedding sustainability in our products to meet growing expectations from the people we serve. Sustainability is central to our purpose and runs through everything we do.


Learn more about sustainable labels

Here at Avery Dennison we provide a wide selection of sustainable labeling solutions as part of our Sustainable ADvantage portfolio that help brands like Reckitt move closer to their sustainability goals. Discover our "Small. Yet Significant." guide to navigating sustainable labeling for HPC brands to learn how you can incorporate material choices, EcoDesign best practices and innovation into your packaging decisions. 

Reckitt is the company behind some of the world's most recognizable and trusted consumer brands in hygiene, health, and nutrition, including Air Wick, Calgon, Cillit Bang, Clearasil, Dettol, Durex, Enfamil, Finish, Gaviscon, Harpic, Lysol, Mortein, Mucinex, Nurofen, Nutramigen, Strepsils, Vanish, Veet, Woolite and more. 



Ready to talk? Our Ecosystem Managers are experts in the home and personal care space and are here to help you solve your sustainability challenges.