25 September 2013
Why going green means more than a certificate
TORONTO—Industries including the packaging sector are steering towards sustainability and asking for more transparent supply chains, said a panel of experts at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

The Sept. 20 talk, on sustainable and responsible global sourcing, featured insights from Bob Hagan, senior vice president of sales at Atlantic Packaging; Ian Lifshitz, director of sustainability at Asia Pulp & Paper; and Brian Zeiler-Kligman, director of sustainability for Canada's National Brewers. Corporate Knights Magazine's Jeremy Runnalls moderated the discussion.

From left: Ian Lifshitz, Asia Pulp & Paper; Jeremy Runnalls, Corporate Knights Magazine; Brian Zeiler-Kligman, Canada's National Brewers; Bob Hagan, Atlantic Packaging

The panelists described how various companies and industry bodies, including their own, took their first sustainable steps. Hagan said Atlantic Packaging, founded 1945 in Toronto, began providing sustainable packaging at a time when there wasn't even a regulated blue box program in place. "We had networks of garbage trucks going around picking up waste corrugated," Hagan said.

Zeiler-Kligman said Ontario has come a long way. The beer bottle deposit/return program has been expanded to include packaging, as well as shopping bags and bottle caps. He said over 65,000 tons of glass moves through the voluntary program each year, and as a result, Ontario is now an exporter of glass cutlet.

Hagan noted that government legislation has worked for the packaging industry and said that 75% of paper is now recycled thanks to blue box programs, but agreed with Zeiler-Kligman that producer responsibility is key. "Things won't run perfectly with government regulation," he said. "We need more involvement from private industry."

Industries need to concentrate on the principles behind certifications, and establish a baseline for legality, said Lifshitz

Asia Pulp & Paper's Lifshitz said industry is driving change by pushing for transparent supply chains. Companies are moving away from just offering to match charitable donations, to actually getting involved, he said.

Asked about the value of green certifications, Lifshitz said that due to "far too many labels in the marketplace," there is a lack of common standards for the global supply chain, and that the sheer volume means stamps and seals can lose their value. Organizations should focus more on the principles behind the certificates, he said.

It's also important to mind geographical nuances when dealing worldwide. "What's sustainable here is not necessarily sustainable in Asia," he said.
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