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Sustainable Packaging—Part 1

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: June 5, 2007, from the June 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

As a profitable business model, sustainability is a process of innovation and concern.1 The principles in this approach presuppose that through stewardship of the environment and by increasing the productivity with which all resources are used, waste is eliminated and superior products and sustainable profits result. Implementing the “right” strategy requires heightened awareness of trends in the industry, recognition of meaningful changes and skillful adaptation.2

In the first part of a series on sustainable packaging practices, GCI magazine looks at one company’s intensive four-year adoption of sustainable business practices, the challenges of shifting business models, the fortuity of timing and the resultant economic benefits.

Sustainable Business Model
Curtis Packaging, a designer and manufacturer of custom folding cartons, has converted its operations to 100% clean, renewable energy—85% wind power and 15% hydroelectric. According to the company, the conversion offsets more than 7.1 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. To reach this level of proactive practice, the company first recognized a significant industry change and then determined how it would adapt to achieve its complementary goals. In this case, Curtis Packaging believed that going beyond basic compliance with sustainable practices was in the best of interest of both the environment and its business. Its sustainability goals were not merely incorporated into its business model; sustainability became the business model.

“Sustainability and ‘going green’ are terms that have recently gained a lot of traction in the media,” said Don Droppo, Jr., vice president of sales and marketing, Curtis Packaging. “Environmentally friendly initiatives gained a lot of momentum and hit the front burner three years ago when we had our first request for eco-friendly packaging from Estée Lauder. This launched a sustainable revolution at Curtis to green all aspects of our business.”

Previously, Curtis had practiced what it called “environmental responsibility,” considering it simply sound business practice to recycle all of its waste, install efficiency practices and equipment, and eliminate certain materials.

Estée Lauder’s request to replace a virgin European board was the springboard for Curtis Packaging’s research initiatives into environmentally friendly materials. The company had previously produced an environmentally friendly alternative to foil and metallized film lamination, CurtCHROME, but was challenged to find an alternate board substrate.