Fespa conference: Unlock meaningful and substantial sustainable outcomes

At the first panel session at the recent Fespa conference in Sydney, a panel of speakers discussed what’s working and what challenges need to be addressed to unlock meaningful and substantial sustainable outcomes. 

Ball & Doggett sustainable packaging national business development manager Zaidee Jackson and recently appointed Starleaton development and sustainability executive Thomas Anderson first addressed the confusing dialogue when it comes to sustainability. 

“Some of the conversations around sustainability can be daunting. Some of the language used in sustainability, especially for those that haven’t been used to it before, it’s almost like dealing with people speaking a different language. That can be really challenging if you’re just starting out,” Anderson said. 

“As a business, we’re in the early stages of developing our sustainability initiatives and we’re working hard on our reduction of waste to landfill. Something I’d encourage every business to look at is finding out what is your why? Is your sustainable journey a marketing exercise or because you have a genuine concern for the environment?” 

Anderson also mentioned that government legislation and consumer demand has exposed the reality of waste and our environmental impact. 

“The sustainability movement is here to stay. It’s no longer a risk management function, it’s no longer a marketing term. Stats has shown that there’s 50 per cent more carbon dioxide in the world today than there was pre-industrial levels. It has become a real issue that we deal with everyday,” Jackson added. 

“So, we need to look at the financial investment that needs to happen to make sure that businesses are on the right path. You need to determine how your business practices can align with how you’re treating the sustainable movement. This has become part of the course for everyone.” 

Jackson also said the time for transformation and change is now. 

“There is no longer room for greenwashing. It’s no longer a conversation for just one industry. If we’re not doing it now, we’re not future-proofing our business. Everyone is demanding it,” she mentioned. 

Anderson mentioned that the barriers in the industry remain consistent across print and the areas behind, saying that cost increases are the main concern when it comes to sustainable options, along with a lack of product availability and knowledge. 

“Cost increases are the reality of it, but we’re in the middle of a waste crisis and sustainable options are the way to go. We need it to be a primary resource, not a secondary resource and it needs to be put forward first,” he said. 

According to Jackson, a collective approach drives a collective impact. 

“Transparency, reporting and communication is vital along with education. We need to teach and transform the journey for customers through the lens of the brand. Not everyone in our community has the privilege of choosing great products. So, there’s a weight on the industry and the government, and everyone to play their parts,” she said. 

“Customers don’t want to spend more but it’s our responsibility to sell the value versus the cost. We need to show and demonstrate these alternatives.”  

Jackson also advised businesses to change their mindsets and with this comes the ability to be brave and pivot. 

“Don’t shy away from defining what sustainability means to your organisation. Define what your goals are and get finance teams involved in the discussion. Don’t be afraid to get your partners involved and also lean in to practitioners in shaping strategy. Sit down with customers that are doing well and learn from them and your other networks,” she said. 

“Look at your resources in your business as a starting point. Draw out and determine your impact on the environment. That will allow you to better understand your impact,” Anderson added. 

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