Green packaging development in theory and practice

University dissertation from Lund University

Abstract: In the light of the environmental challenges society is facing it is important thatboth products and their packaging systems are optimised from an environmental perspective. Previous research highlights that environmental optimisation of packaging requires an integrated assessment of product and packaging together.Theory on green packaging development (GPD) is comprehensive and there areexamples of methods that promote a holistic perspective but it is unclear how well these theoretical concepts are incorporated into current industrial practice. The first purpose of this research is explore how, and to what extent, the organisation and content of current GPD practices support the integrated environmental optimisation of complete product and packaging systems. Since existing GPD theory does not provide clear recommendations for how companies should prioritise between different environmental requirements on packaging, the second purpose of this research is to develop prioritisation guidelines for food GPD.The underlying research consists of one interview study of GPD in the Swedishmanufacturing and food industry and a systematic review of food life cycleassessment studies. For the empirical study, twenty-seven semi-structuredinterviews were conducted at nine case companies. The empirical studydemonstrates on one hand that the case companies systematically considerenvironmental aspects of packaging and product systems and that they have started to organise GPD according to the principles of integration. On the other hand, the empirical study indicates that the case companies currently do not utilise the complete range and potential of theoretical environmental improvement opportunities in GPD. The thesis concludes that the case companies possess some but not all of the capabilities that support the integrated environmental optimisation of product and packaging systems. Internal integrative capabilities such as cross-functionality in the packaging development process and technological capabilities in the form of an awareness of the influence of packaging on the environmental impact of the entire supply chain are well established in most case companies. External integrative capabilities (such as collaboration with customers) and value-utilising capabilities (such as the ability to seize on marketing opportunities of green packaging) are less advanced in most case companies. The systematic review of forty-eight food LCAs has shown that various environmental requirements on packaging are of differing environmental importance in a life cycle perspective depending on the type of food product. Based on the systematic review of food LCAs, the thesis suggests guidelines for food GPD.The research contributes with empirical data about GPD by providing information about the level of internal and external integration in packaging development processes and an overview about the spectrum of GPD approaches applied in the case companies. Paper 3 adds to GPD theory with an overview of the environmental impact of packaging in food SCs and a suggestion for how different environmental packaging requirements can be prioritised for different types of food products. Practitioners can use the results and propositions to benchmark their own GPD processes, and to take up one or more of the suggestions on how to enhance their capabilities to support the integrated environmental optimisation of product and packaging systems in their organisations.

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