It was recently announced that more than 100 organizations had signed The Climate Pledge,

a commitment to reach the Paris Agreement 10 years early and be net-zero carbon by 2040. This has sent an important signal that there will be rapid growth in demand for products and services that help reduce carbon emissions. Specifically, signatories to The Climate Pledge have agreed to:

Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis.

Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies.

Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially-beneficial offsets to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040 — a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2050.

As one of the signatories, Pregis has embarked on a net-zero plan to help reach the specified objectives. For companies who may be thinking of ramping up their environmental efforts, our deep dive into this topic has led us to develop a step-by-step systematic approach to reach our objectives. If you are interested in ramping up your efforts, here are some of the things you should be considering.

Greenhouse gasses (GHGs). Each organization needs to begin the process by identifying which GHGs are generated in its manufacturing environment. Most packaging manufacturers will want to measure carbon emissions.

Analysis is critical in identifying the carbon generating hotspots within the organization and its suppliers. That creates a solid foundation from which to take action. Here are the three steps that will help you identify and create a plan to reduce carbon-based emissions:

Scope 1. During this first scope, your focal point will be measuring emissions produced by your facilities and vehicles. Another way of putting it is, look at factors which are directly in your control. Examples include your manufacturing facilities, office space, warehousing, company vehicles, etc. This is the easiest scope to tackle and should be your first priority.

Scope 2. Moving on to the next level, focus on decisions that you have partial control over. Examples include emissions associated with purchased utilities such as electricity, water, etc., used by your facilities. For example, if your operations are located in areas with deregulated electrical grids, you can source or produce renewable energy.

Scope 3. Moving on to the most challenging level on your road to carbon neutrality, your goal will be to capture upstream and downstream activities within the value chain where you have less control over the emissions created. Distribution, raw materials, business travel or customer use, and disposal of your products are just a few examples. And, while this is the most complex, it can make a significant difference in reducing carbon emissions for manufacturing organizations and, oftentimes, lead to the most rewarding outcomes.

In our analysis, 20 to 30% of emissions take place within the first two scopes. The area in which your efforts will have the greatest impact is Scope 3. However, because these initiatives require involvement and collaboration with other companies, this is the most challenging area to tackle.

Conversely, engaging with your supply chain partners can create significant business benefits in addition to environmental ones. By opening the doors of communication and putting processes in place to reduce your environmental footprint, you will end up creating new products (or modifying existing ones) to support your mutual environmental objectives. These collaborative efforts will generate next-generation, disruptive products that are not only good for the environment but will also supply the fuel for business growth.

Frequency of effort should be another key aspect of your plan. Carbon foot printing shouldn’t be a once-in-a-year activity. Continuously reviewing your emissions data enables you to take action when needed, adjust to changing market opportunities and actively manage your progress toward the targets you’ve set. Be consistent in asking engaging, and sometimes tough, questions of the suppliers and customers you work with. Remember, those collaborations will have the most significant impact on your carbon footprint, as well as theirs.

Clint Smith is Pregis’ senior director, global sustainability. He is responsible for driving Pregis’ sustainability and social responsibility objectives and implementing strategies that fall within the company’s commitment to “Protect, Preserve and Inspyre®.” Pregis is a leading global provider of protective packaging solutions, focuses on preventing product damage, improving customer satisfaction, and preventing waste by reducing returns that add up in fuel and energy environmental impacts.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of PARCEL.