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Without Scope 3 Emissions, You Can’t Consider the Whole Package

Taking ownership of the things you “don’t own” may sound contradictory, but it’s a critical step on the journey towards a better climate future.

When approaching the intricate subject of sustainability, it can be easy to feel immediately overwhelmed. As a sustainable packaging company with a hand in many different sectors, we understand this deeply.

Scope 3 emissions serve as a perfect example of the depth and complexity of sustainability. Realizing your footprint extends beyond your direct assets, actions, and ownership can be shocking for sustainable brands, suppliers, and consumers alike.

But we’re living proof that even just a few years of conscious collaboration—allowing experts to help you break down the subject into smaller, quantifiable pieces—can ignite inspiring progress. In the last five years, we’ve been able to grow exponentially as a brand while still quantifying and understanding our environmental impact more than ever before.

And to us, that’s what it’s all about. We know our sustainability journey will never be perfect, but as long as we’re making measurable progress—and helping others in the sustainable packaging space (and beyond) do the same—we can carry on in good conscience.

Why are we singling out Scope 3 emissions?

When it comes to reducing emissions, setting net zero goals, or achieving carbon neutrality—Scope 3 emissions should always be part of the conversation. In a way, you can even think of Scope 3 emissions as a way to sift through greenwashers. If an “eco-conscious” brand or business doesn’t acknowledge its Scope 3 emissions, you can bet that they’re not truly walking the walk.

You see, Scope 3 emissions result from activities and assets that are not owned or controlled by the reporting organization (for example, items purchased from third-party suppliers, emissions from business travel, accumulated waste in landfills, and the like). While the reporting company is not directly responsible for these emissions, they still indirectly impact the company’s value chain and make up a significant portion of overall emissions.

It’s tempting for companies to make net zero claims once they’ve squared away their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, resolving that Scope 3 emissions are “someone else’s problem.”

And that’s the issue. To the planet, emissions are emissions no matter what scope they fall under. If we don’t all take responsibility for our direct and indirect contributions, we’ll have a hard time moving towards a better climate future.

To give you an idea of how expansive Scope 3 emissions are—as a global sustainable packaging company with over 500 suppliers, 77% of our 2021 emissions fall under Scope 3. Can you imagine if we claimed carbon neutrality while 77% of our total emissions were left unchecked? Now, can you imagine if other “sustainable packaging companies” or “sustainable brands” did the same?

Why is this particularly important in the packaging industry?

The packaging solutions industry holds a unique position.

True sustainable packaging solutions can serve as a catalyst in the journey towards a circular economy. Not only do we, as packaging solutions providers, have our own Scope 3 emissions—but we are Scope 3 emissions for hundreds of brands across multiple industries. Not to mention, global online shopping is at an all-time high, and so is the consumer demand for eco-conscious products and sustainable packaging.

With our toes in so many different pools, we have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the planet. At GPA Global, we take great pride in our client-centric model and understand that the environmental efforts we put forth reflect back on the clients that depend on us—and that’s not something we take lightly.

By prioritizing the reduction of our Scope 3 emissions, we’re able to better ensure that sustainability is built into our supply chain, such that our sustainability efforts are not empty claims. This way, we’re better able to act in the best interest of the planet, our clients, and their consumers—so we can help move everyone towards a circular economy.

Consider the whole package.

What can we do in the short term and long term to keep Scope 3 emissions in check?

We’ll be the first to admit that we don’t have all the answers, and our Scope 3 emissions are not “in check”. And we believe acknowledging that is the first step. From there, we encourage everyone to:

  • Start conversations. Just like we’re doing right now, we encourage you to start conversations with yourself, your company, your stakeholders, and anyone else who will listen. We’ve found that, even if you’re in a transitional period like us, you can still provide useful ideas, evidence, and advice to inspire those around you.
  • Quantify current emissions. 80% of our Scope 3 emissions are a result of purchased goods and services. We currently have data for around 20% of our Scope 3 emissions via our suppliers. This isn’t perfect, but it’s a great start.
  • Set realistic and transparent goals. We’ve set a goal to understand 50% of our Scope 3 emissions from our suppliers by 2030. As a global sustainable packaging company with over 500 suppliers, we feel this goal is realistic, achievable, and most importantly—transparent.
  • Come up with plans to achieve these goals. We’ve partnered with sustainability reporting platform, UL360, to collect our site’s sustainability data, and we’ve used their platform, Turbo Carbon, to record data for our supplier sites. These platforms will remain key in our goal to understand 50% of our Scope 3 emissions via our suppliers.

On top of this, Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) not only allow us to provide our clients and stakeholders with granular data on the footprint of our products and our progress towards circularity—but they also serve as a reminder to maintain a holistic outlook on sustainability.

At the end of the day, sustainability is a complex multilayered subject, and maintaining a 360-degree outlook while also breaking down and confronting specific areas of improvement—such as Scope 3 emissions—is paramount for progress. This journey is not, and never will be, someone else’s problem.

19 August 2022
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