Sustainable Food Trade Association
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The Responsible Packaging Project has drafted Responsible Packaging Guidelines to provide our industry with a common “open source” framework that will guide action and catalyze innovation.

We encourage companies to use these guidelines internally and with their supply-chain to evaluate current packaging and vendors, and as a “compass” to guide design and future purchases.

Why are we doing this?
With the proliferation of “green, sustainable, responsible, degradable, bio-based, etc.” packaging claims, in tandem with the emergence of multiple packaging scorecards and metrics schemes it is time for the organic industry to put our stake in the ground to clearly define a shared vision for packaging responsibility in our industry.  We must clearly define the “high bar” of principles and develop congruent metrics that will enable us to assess our progress towards that high bar.

We feel that the guidelines the grocery industry has developed thus far are a starting place, but these systems remain mostly focused on guiding manufacturers in how to do “less bad” with the packaging they send out the door, rather than providing guidance on how we can arrive at truly sustainable packaging that is in alignment with the whole-systems principles of organic, cradle to cradle, The Natural Step, Zero Waste, precautionary principle, and Fair Trade.

Responsible Packaging Guidelines:

  1. Transparency of content and process in determining these guidelines, and which materials and inputs are preferred.
  2. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) a strategy designed to promote the integration of environmental and social costs associated with products throughout their life cycles into the market price of the products.
  3. Ecological Principles drive the definition of “what is” either recyclable as a technical nutrient in manufacturing cycles, or compostable as a biological nutrient in nature.

Are these binding principles?
No, these are guidelines for action, not a standard with 3rd party verified certification.

How will this catalyze the change we seek in the industry?
“If you don’t know where you are going any path will take you there”.  Fundamentally we need to agree on where we are going in order to catalyze change/innovation in the organic industry.   To use an analogy, if we are going to play the game of chess we must first define what “winning” looks like, then from there flows strategy and moves on the board.  In a similar way if we are going to play the game of “responsible packaging” we need to first agree on what winning would look like (the day in the future when all packaging is aligned with sustainability principles), then will flow the actions and strategy for how to get there.  Responsible Packaging Guidelines provide our  industry with this common framework of “winning” which will guide action and provide a future-vision we can measure progress against.

What is in the Guidelines?

  • Ecology & whole systems based design principles
  • Evaluation of the various material types by their environmental and social impact throughout the lifecycle
  • Recognition of waste hierarchy, maximizing waste prevention/source reduction
  • Utilization of renewable energy & climate change mitigation
  • Consideration of delivery and recovery infrastructure
  • Consideration of conservation and community benefits
  • Acceptable “green” claims and avoiding misrepresentation (i.e. “greenwash)
  • Price, branding, performance, viability/availability