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With consumers across the world becoming increasingly conscious and worried about the environment, sustainability has emerged as a megatrend shaping the future direction of global industries. One of the industries that have been in the spotlight for some time is the packaging industry, with the widespread usage of single-use plastic containers having a heavy negative impact on the environment.

Taking cognisance of this, Tetra Pak has committed to making food safe and available, everywhere by contributing towards building secure, resilient and sustainable food systems. This is in line with the company’s 70 years of heritage and strategy of responsible industry leadership and a sustainable approach to business.

Tetra Pak's Sustainability Report 2022 highlights the company's achievements as well as ambitions for the future and focuses on how the company is driving circular solutions and its actions to mitigate climate change. The report outlines the company’s integrated approach to sustainability and its efforts to establish secure, resilient and sustainable food systems that provide access to safe, affordable and nutritious food, and minimise food loss and food waste across the value chain.

“At Tetra Pak, our pledge of protecting food, people and the planet entails that we focus our innovation to provide safe and sustainable solutions to the food and beverage industry challenges,” says Niels Hougaard, Managing Director of Tetra Pak Arabia Area.

“We believe that sustainable solutions including packaging are both a market demand and a requirement from us as manufacturers, and our responsibility starts with sourcing raw materials in the most sustainable way possible and ends at making sure products’ end of life cycle is respectful of our planet.”

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Hougaard points out that Tetra Pak’s approach to sustainability extends across the entire value chain and beyond. “We are committed to reaching net-zero GHG emissions in our operations by 2030 and across the entire value chain by 2050. We are getting closer to realising our ambition of making the packaging of the future, a carton made from responsibly sourced, fully renewable, or recycled materials, that is recyclable and carbon neutral. We call this ambition Go Nature. Go Carton,” he adds.

Tetra Pak has been focusing on innovation in plant-based food and beverage packaging using raw materials such as wood fibres and sugar cane for years and launched the first 100 per cent renewable Tetra Rex carton already in 2014. The company is known for its Forest Stewardship Council-certified Tetra Brik and Tetra Prisma Aseptic ranges, sustainable and functional packaging made from renewable resources, and paper, and available with eco-friendly closures made from non-food derivatives of sugar cane.

Tetra Pak is also working to connect players across the value chain to join its sustainability initiatives. With the goal of driving collective action, the company has collaborated with five start-ups to develop fortified food and beverage products and transform food waste into nutritious food sources. An example of these innovations is precision fermentation, a technique that introduces a gene into microorganisms to produce valuable food ingredients, such as proteins, fats, and vitamins. Another example is exploring the potential of making sustainable use of acid whey, turning it from waste into a resource; and finding processing solutions to make insect protein more acceptable in our daily diets.

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“By regularly engaging in strong partnerships with the aim of turning the outcomes of our operations into neutral, if not positive, ones, we believe that we are making an effective impact by inspiring other businesses and organisations to act for our planet. With our partners, we are set on creating circular economies by encouraging and facilitating recycling,” explains Hougaard.

The Sustainability Report 2022 turns the spotlight on how Tetra Pak acts for nature through responsible sourcing practices and strategic partnerships to conserve and restore biodiversity while mitigating and adapting to climate change and contributing to global water resilience. It highlights how the company is prioritising local initiatives with a global impact, including a land restoration programme set to restore at least 7,000 hectares by 2030.

The brand’s actions on mitigating climate change include decarbonising its operations, products and value chain. In 2021, the company reduced its operational footprint GHG emissions by 36 per cent compared to the 2019 baseline. The report also points out that the brand has achieved 80 per cent renewable electricity by doubling its solar capacity.

Circularity is at the core of Tetra Pak’s innovation and development goals. Circular solutions are driven by designing recyclable liquid food packaging, using recycled and renewable materials, and expanding collection and recycling to keep materials in use and out of landfills. In 2021, the brand invested €40 million in collection and recycling infrastructure contributing to 50 billion cartons being collected and sent to recyclers.

However, these sustainability drives are not without their challenges. Hougaard says that the most important challenges communities and the food industry are facing on their way to mitigating climate change are related to “getting legislators, organisations, and businesses to collaborate on the necessity and urgency of acting for our planet, across the entire value chain”.

He also adds that seeing that various entities are taking UN SDGs seriously and working towards achieving them offers an optimistic view of the future. “Partnering with such entities gives us a lot of courage and motivation to join our peers working for the benefit of our planet,” he adds.

Recently, Tetra Pak partnered with UPM (Union Paper Mills), one of the UAE’s leading companies in paper recycling, to create a commercially viable used beverage carton (UBC) collection and recycling value chain in the region. By working together, the two partners hope to set an example and encourage other businesses to support the country's sustainability ambitions. Tetra Pak’s role in this collaboration is to assist in increasing the capacity and overall efficiency of UPM’s UBC collection, transportation, treatment and recycling systems by helping with UBC’s recycling capabilities including the technology needed to install and operate a pulp line at UPM’s facility in Dubai, and with technical know-how in recycling plants and facilitates cooperation between waste management companies and UPM.

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Moreover, Tetra Pak has joined forces with its recycling partners, STP (Saudi Top Plastic) and OPI (Obeikan Paper Industries), and Saudi Arabian market-leading food and dairy company SADAFCO to implement the pilot project, Zero Waste, Better Taste, which aims to educate children about the nutritional benefits of milk and recycling habits. The campaign involves distributing milk samples and allowing children from 250 schools in Jeddah and Riyadh to engage in competitions and interactive in-class sessions with the goal of driving positive recycling behaviour in the children and educating them about the benefits of drinking milk.

Tetra Pak has aligned its efforts for sustainability with the government of Saudi Arabia, which has shown to be very engaged in achieving sustainability. With its Vision 2030, the country is changing its regulations and including sustainability at the heart of its goals. The UAE government is also making great efforts in order to change mentalities and encourage recycling and responsible consumer behaviour. Hougaard also says that working with  school partners to educate the youth about sustainability is highly important since the children are the future custodians of the planet.