The publishing of the climate report by the IPCC in August 2021, and the global agreements made at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November 2021, have provided increasingly clear evidence that the climate crisis is now becoming an ever more critical global issue, and that determined action must be taken immediately.
At UPM Raflatac, the company understands that reducing the footprint of products and packaging means using less raw materials, increasing the use of renewable and recycled materials, as well as making it easier to recycle products.
In addition, as part of global efforts to have a positive impact on climate change, numerous global consumer brands, facing increasing pressure to improve their sustainability from both governments and consumers, are stepping up their search for proven real-world solutions that will help them to reduce their environmental impact. To that end, these brands have incorporated comprehensive sustainability initiatives into their company strategies and have committed to attaining strict future climate benchmarks.
Sustainable packaging and carbon neutral sustainable labelling, clearly explaining both the packaging and the labelling’s sustainable components, are increasingly seen as an important step to encourage consumers to purchase more sustainable products.
Two steps to carbon neutrality
To help their many customers take positive climate action, in 2019, UPM Raflatac announced that RAFNXT+ was the world’s first label material verified by the Carbon Trust to reduce its carbon footprint and help mitigate climate change. Now, the company has taken a step further and has introduced its RAFNXT+, the world’s first CarbonNeutral® label material certified as a CarbonNeutral® product by Natural Capital Partners.
Says Robert Taylor, Sustainability Director at UPM Raflatac,
The label is part of the package and labels are pretty much on everything you buy. All the main brands are going to be under massive pressure to reduce the footprint of their packaging.
As one of the biggest label producers in the world, we are now offering them the world’s first carbon neutral labelling material. We are at the point of testing the market interest. Every package is different. Every story is different. But the point is that the label can be carbon neutral so you can basically discount it from your packaging footprint.”
The first carbon neutral products in UPM Raflatac’s portfolio are selected CarbonNeutral certified RAFNXT+ labelling materials. Due to this certification, you can make deduction of emissions relating to RAFNXT+ carbon neutral product in your LCA calculation. We have already taken care of compensating for these today’s unavoidable emissions. And for UPM Raflatac, this represents one further step towards a future beyond fossils.
“RAFNXT+ is a unique labelling solution fulfilling the end use needs,” adds Taylor. “It comes from FSC certified forests, and it’s thinner and lighter than its competition, but what makes it different is the forest carbon story associated with it. With this labelling, we are not only reducing our carbon footprint, and because it is thinner and lighter, we are leaving more trees in the forest to be used for other things, so there is this resource efficiency angle which also increases the capacity of the forest to mitigate climate change. The climate impact of that process is now quantified and verified by the Carbon Trust, a very credible London-based organisation. On top of that we now made it carbon neutral.”
The CarbonNeutral certification for UPM Raflatac’s RAFNXT+ labelling materials was issued by Natural Capital Partners in September 2021, in accordance with the CarbonNeutral Protocol.
Adds Taylor, “We used Natural Capital Partners as the credible verification body to show that these carbon offsets are actually happening in practice. It’s credible, it’s certified, it’s a third party that’s doing it, so in that way we hope to address any concerns that anybody might have that this is ‘greenwashing’ or a misleading claim. Greenhouse gases are being removed from the atmosphere and that is the critical point.”
Initiating carbon offsetting projects
To deliver this world first carbon neutral labelling, UPM Raflatac currently operates four carbon offsetting compensation projects that fight the causes of climate change, bring additional benefits including the supporting of local communities, for example, and are linked to UN Sustainable Development Goals. UPM Raflatac works with credible and recognised partners to help ensure that the investments are going to the right place and that the reduction in carbon emissions is both quantifiable and verifiable.
The current projects are grassland conservation in the United States, improved water construction in Africa and cleaner cooking solutions in Bangladesh and China. As interest in carbon neutral labelling builds, and more of UPM’s customers choose to utilise the RAFNXT+ labelling material, additional compensation projects will also be initiated to meet demand.
According to Taylor, the time to act is right now. “We want to highlight that this is a world first and what we hope to achieve with it. The other point to highlight is that this is about taking immediate action on a topic that requires immediate action and we can’t get rid of our carbon footprint completely, so what we are doing is using green finance to invest or compensate elsewhere where we can avoid or reduce carbon from the atmosphere.”
“Carbon neutrality is one of the tools for us to go beyond fossils. For brands, our label might be 5-10 per cent of the whole carbon footprint on that package, and these companies now are making commitments to reduce their footprint by 20 to 30 to 40 per cent. The label already tackles 5-10 per cent and that helps them on their way,” says Taylor in conclusion.