Reducing environmental impact through lifecycle assessment

8 April 2014
Unilever and UPM cooperation

Unilever and UPM Raflatac have worked in partnership to create a model for assessing the environmental impact of packaging labels throughout the label lifecycle.

Lifecycle assessment (LCA) allows Unilever to determine the environmental impact of packaging labels throughout the value chain, from raw materials through to consumer use and waste disposal.

The direct impact of Unilever’s production is fairly small and a large part of the company’s environmental footprint comes from the raw materials they source.

“Our aim is to find new ways of reducing the impact on the environment in close cooperation with our raw material suppliers. This also improves our own environmental performance,” says Dave Hall, Global Procurement Manager of Decoration Feedstock at Unilever.

Unilever aims at constant development

Unilever’s strategy entails doubling the size of their business while significantly reducing their environmental footprint by 2020. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions and significantly reducing water consumption and the volume of waste produced are part of the strategy.

“LCA allows us to look at the value chain as a whole. Using this approach, we can identify areas that have the greatest impact on the environment, then devise strategies to mitigate this impact.”

Jan Hasselblatt, Director of Global Accounts and Brand Relations, UPM Raflatac, points out that the jointly devised LCA model is the most extensive model created in the industry. It covers raw material sourcing, transport, label manufacturing, printing and waste disposal.

Sustainable actions rely on data

One of the world’s leading printing companies also participated in the project. From the point of view of the environment, the most significant factors in the printing process are the number of stages involved, the solvents used and the amount of energy expended during each stage.

“This project is a unique example of how a label supplier, printing company and leading product brand can cooperate to develop sustainable label solutions,” says Hasselblatt.

UPM Raflatac has provided Unilever with data about the environmental impact of label products. This data will help Unilever develop its label design and source materials sustainably. The data will also improve the competitiveness of the company and significantly benefit its business.

“We strongly believe in a sustainable supply chain. In order for us to be able to create a globally functional recycling chain, all the members of the chain must cooperate. Having as much data as possible about the environmental impact of the materials we use will facilitate how we source materials in the future,” Hall states.


Text Vesa Puoskari

Photography UPM

UPM Biofore

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