PackExpo Keynote: Surpass Sustainability Compliance

Sustainability dominated discussion during Pack Expo Las Vegas this past October. Leading the second keynote address, Meadwestvaco’s Chairman and CEO John A. Luke Jr. expanded on the importance of not only complying with new sustainability standards, but also going beyond the necessary steps to seize the opportunity to win over customers.

“‘Thinking outside the box’ is more than just a cliché,” Luke said, maintaining that optimal sustainability means creative growth as well. In pharmaceutical applications specifically, packaging has the opportunity to reduce waste while ensuring proper doses. One Meadwestvaco product, for example, employs polylactic acid (PLA) plastic for unit-dose blister-pack cartons with patient instructions.

Packaging relays the sustainability message in several ways. “[Packaging] could be your best communication to consumers,” Luke said, adding that 72% of consumers look to packaging as a source of environmental messages.

Luke urged companies to start following global compliance regulations, such as those in the European Union, then move forward. He, along with many others at the three-day event, referenced the Wal-Mart scorecard as the sustainability springboard for the packaging industry.

The scorecard ranks packaging suppliers on their efforts to minimize packaging, use effective materials, and adopt efficient and environmentally sound sourcing. To begin following these suggestions, Luke recommended beginning with preserving resources and fostering growth by using recycled materials and creating innovative renewable resources as potential packaging materials.

Luke concluded by suggesting that companies respond to consumer perception. He noted that this often conflicts with optimized packaging, and he reminded the audience that best practices mean that companies must consider how revised packaging affects brand identity.

“It won’t achieve unless packages appeal to customers,” Luke said. “If it doesn’t attract customers, it’s not sustainable at all.”

Meadwestvaco has been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since 2003. Luke touted the company’s environmentally sound practices, including consistently reducing the amount of fiber in paperboard for boxes, and responsibly sourcing material. Meadwestvaco is also a founding member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.


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