Sonoco’s Smart Approach Shrinks Water, Energy Use: Here’s How

by | Jul 31, 2017

Global packaging manufacturer Sonoco reduced total water usage by nearly 5% in 2016 and recovered the equivalent (by weight) of 57% of the product that Sonoco places into the marketplace through recycling, according to the company’s 2016-2017 corporate responsibility report.

The company says it also reduced total energy use by half a percent and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3% year over year.

Since 2009, Sonoco says it has reduced total greenhouse gas emissions by 6.7% and has reduced total water usage by 31%. Among the company’s global manufacturing operations, 10% have achieved 95% or greater diversion of wastes to landfill.

Sonoco’s increasing emphasis on sustainable materials management focuses on supply chain, a topic that seems to be top-of-mind for manufacturers in 2017. For Sunoco, sustainability remains a key motivation throughout all project stages, from design and production to display, consumption, and recycling/reuse. Factors like sourcing, shelf life, energy efficiency, carbon footprint and recycling are weighed throughout the packaging lifecycle.

In 2017, Sonoco acquired Peninsula Packaging Company, a manufacturer of thermoformed packaging for fresh fruits and vegetables found in retail supermarkets. The division uses post-consumer PET beverage containers to produce new packaging for its customers (up to 100%). About 1 in 5 PET beverage containers recycled in the state of California are converted in Sonoco plants, the company says.

How a Large Corporation Handles Its Approach to Sustainability

Unlike many companies this publication has researched and written about, Sonoco outlines exactly how it deals with the complicated process of managing sustainability within the organization. For companies wanting to copy:

  1. Sonoco first identifies and analyzes 48 issues aligned with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
  2. The company establishes stakeholder groups, including customers, suppliers, industry peers, shareholders, NGOs, community leaders, regulators/government and Sonoco employees. These groups were assessed based on publicly available data including websites, annual reports, 10-K filings, corporate social responsibility reports, materiality matrices, news releases and mission statements.
  3. Sonoco leadership, employees and community leaders assessed the impact of each of the 48 GRI aspects based on the impact to Sonoco using an online survey. In the survey, issues were measured on a four-point scale of importance. After rating the significance of each issue by stakeholder, the company classified the issues into a common terminology using the 48 aspects included in the economic, environmental and social categories of the GRI standards, then aggregated the ratings across the external stakeholder groups to calculate the average rating of each issue by group.
  4. Each issue identified was then rated on the four-point scale based on the perceived significance of the issue to the stakeholder. Issues not mentioned by stakeholders in available sources were deemed less important. Issues which were either mentioned in multiple public sources or published by the stakeholder as organizational goals or performance indicators, or listed as an issue of high importance in a materiality matrix, were scored higher.

Archer Daniels Midland is another company that detailed its process for sustainability within the organization.


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