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Packaging Innovations 2020: Carlsberg puts sustainability plan on show

Packaging Innovations is set to return to Birmingham's NEC on 26 and 27 February and will host a packed conference offering the latest industry insights for packaging and design concepts.

Pete Statham, sustainability manager at Carlsberg, will be joining the Drinks Forum at the show. Here, he discusses how the globally recognised drinks brand is tackling sustainability head-on. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your brand, its history, and its future goals? 

Carlsberg was founded in 1847 by J.C. Jacobsen. He was a perfectionist, constantly in pursuit of better beer, which led him to become the first person to bring science to brewing, founding the Carlsberg laboratories in Copenhagen. Here, the pH scale was created and the first pure yeast extracted and cultivated for brewing. This was a huge step for brewers – helping to ensure consistency and quality of beer. Rather than keeping it to himself, J.C. shared it with the entire industry. Today, many of the yeast strains used in brewing are based on that one from the Carlsberg laboratories.

We are still in the pursuit of better, but the world is a very different place – we see global challenges of climate change, water scarcity, and public health. Our response is our sustainability plan, Together Towards ZERO. It sets out four ambitions leading to 2030: zero carbon footprint, zero water waste, zero irresponsible drinking and a zero accidents culture.

The Carlsberg Laboratories are still there today. Inside, brewers and scientists are working together with the latest technology to innovate every part of the brewing process, from breeding drought-resistant barley to identifying new ways of reusing water and eliminating waste.

Sustainability is the hottest topic in the packaging industry right now. In your opinion, what should the industry be prioritising in order to make tangible changes? 

At Carlsberg, packaging accounts for around 40 per cent of our entire carbon footprint. This is where our focus must be and that’s why we’re innovating new packaging formats.

Recently, the conversation has been almost exclusively focused on plastics, and with great success. There are few examples of such rapid and far-reaching action for the environment as we’ve seen with single-use plastic.

But with this comes a concerning trend to minimise plastic in the hands of consumers, without consideration of the carbon impact – switching out small amounts of plastic for more damaging alternative materials. 

We’ve set science-based targets to the more ambitious level of the Paris Climate Agreement, limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which guides decisions across our business including our innovation in packaging.

Following Carlsberg's revolutionary Snap Pack design, do you have any more packaging innovations in the pipeline that you are able to talk about?

Yes: our group development team are very busy looking into the next innovation in sustainable packaging. We recently unveiled the latest prototypes of the Green Fibre Bottle – our vision to create a ‘paper’ beer bottle that is fully bio-based, biodegradable and recyclable. While we’re not there yet, the prototypes are an important step towards our ultimate ambition to bring this to market. By collaborating with leading experts, just as we did with Snap Pack, we aim to continue our progress.

We’re always innovating across the portfolio to make the most efficient use of materials. For example, the new Carlsberg glass bottle in the UK is 10g lighter than the one it replaced, saving more than 63 tonnes of glass in the first six months. In addition, the label on it uses Cradle-to-Cradle certified inks, which are fully recyclable and made using renewable energy.

Can you give us an insight into what you will be speaking about at the Drinks Forum at Packaging Innovations 2020?

I’ll present together with my colleague Alistair Porter, senior brand manager, sharing how sustainability is built into our approach to packaging innovation and how we are working to engage consumers in this complicated, often confusing, and rarely sexy, topic.

Finally, is there any advice that you can give to smaller drinks brands looking to develop a sustainability strategy? 

Focus on the areas where you have the biggest impact, and the most influence For example, in the UK, packaging accounts for around 40 per cent of our value chain carbon footprint. That’s why it’s a focus for us.

For further information, please visit the Packaging Innovations NEC 2020 website.

11 February 2020 - Bethany Whymark