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Podcast | January 1, 2009
Gillette's perspective on packaging sustainability
Mike Marcinkowski, senior engineer of Gillette, a Boston-based P&G business unit, talks about the role packaging materials and machinery play in the company’s sustainability efforts.
Marcinkowski (shown) is interviewed by Jim Butschli, Features Editor, in this 11-minute Podcast.
How does Gillette communicate internally when it comes to sustainable packaging?
All of the company’s sustainability efforts and goals are communicated from the top, beginning with A. G. Lafley, the CEO of Procter & Gamble, and then broken down into different categories and leaders within P&G business units, such as Gillette, to be addressed and maintained.
How has the Walmart sustainable packaging scorecard changed Gillette’s sustainability efforts?
I think that it has been helpful for us to have a more standardized set of metrics to help evaluate our packaging designs. It also allows us to more easily and transparently communicate with our suppliers to look for holistic solutions to improve the sustainability of our packages.
Does Walmart’s RFID mandate ever conflict with the efforts to accommodate the scorecard?
Gillette has always been one of the main players regarding RFID technology. I would say that based on the products and materials that we’re applying RFID tags to, there have been no conflicts, but with RFID there could be some issues that could potentially cause problems with RFID.
Where do biopolymers fit into the whole sustainability equation?
There is a place for them, but we need to understand the pros and cons of those materials through science, documentation, and analysis. There is controversy around these materials and in time they will be discussed more widely.
What are the most important issues or lessons Gillette has learned so far regarding sustainable packaging?
Probably the biggest thing is that we have to maintain the marketing goals and objectives. We have to be able to come up with solutions that still meet those requirements and needs of the consumer and also our customer. That involves finding the balance between sustainability, materials, and marketing and branding objectives.
Can you point to a couple of examples of packages that you have made more sustainable?
There are two main items that I can speak to. Recently we changed our entire club line to more environmentally friendly packaging by reducing the amount of plastic and material that we put out into the environment. We have also gone on our Fusion packaging line and eliminated packaging components with the use of a preprinted blister, eliminating labels, insert cards, and banners. Without getting into the specific numbers, there is a significant reduction in the amount of materials. From an economic perspective, there are cost savings in some cases, but most of the time we are happy to have a cost-neutral situation.
Does being a global company help or hinder your company efforts in sustainable packaging?
In most ways, it’s an asset. Because we are global, with so many brands, we have the ability to broadly reapply innovations and creative solutions from various parts of the company. We also can reapply globally best practices and experiences from different parts of the world. For example, Europe is a little further advanced in its sustainability efforts because they have been addressing it for a longer time. Additionally, some countries have banned PVC, and in other areas there are buy-back or take-back programs for packaging materials. Since we are global, we can learn from all of these programs and reapply them where they will have the greatest impact.
How would you describe the support that you received as a company from packaging materials suppliers as you have tried to move more towards the use of sustainable packaging?
Our supplier base has been excellent in the development of new materials that are available to us to analyze. Every supplier has come to me with ideas and ways to approach material options. It’s definitely on the minds of more and more people. I think you will see that continue.
Of course, most sustainable packaging efforts understandably focus on materials. But is there a machinery role within the sustainable packaging efforts?
Absolutely. Through this whole sustainability effort we have found ways to stretch the capabilities of our machinery, and find new ways to do things with materials on existing equipment. For example, we just found ways to apply new methods of equipment settings that you never thought we could do before, without having a negative impact on speed or output.
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