green sustainability innovation graphicSustainability is quickly becoming the next great innovation in business. As sustainability continues to grow in importance for consumers, brand owners (and not just the well-recognized “earth” brands) are seeking ways to minimize the environmental impact of everything they do.
The global containers and packaging market is forecast to have a value of $596.8 billion in 20151, with green products and packaging moving from the fringe to a best practice area2. More and more, brand owners and their supply chains understand that reducing environmental impacts is not just a function of corporate responsibility; it’s also good business practice. Corporate sustainability goals are driving lean manufacturing and sourcing initiatives that inherently help brands manage costs. Where investments are needed for long-term improvements, brand owners can consider looking to consumers for support, where there is now some willingness to pay more for an environmentally friendlier product3.
It’s no longer enough for suppliers to simply toss “recycled” and/or “bio-based” products into a brochure. Consumers want brands to become more sustainable, and they are looking for expert advice from a number of different sources. Truly knowledgeable suppliers can answer questions on sustainability, help with certifications and distinguish eco-logos. They can separate environmental fact from fiction and help achieve much-sought-after brand differentiation, sales growth and sustainable innovation. 
While greenwashing has added noise to the marketplace, both brand owners and consumers are becoming better educated and more skeptical of unsupported claims. The updated FTC Green Guides are also informing the way suppliers and brands tell their stories. 

>The Dangers of Greenwashing

In 2010, Terrachoice, a leading environmental marketing and consulting agency, issued its “Sins of Greenwashing” report. In a comprehensive study done that same year of more than 4,744 products in the U.S. and Canada, Terrachoice found only 4.5 percent of products examined were free from greenwashing. Many offenses can discredit a claim, including hidden trade-offs, lack of proof, vagueness, irrelevance, lesser-of-two-evils, fibbing, false endorsements and/or misleading labels.
While the number of green claims grows every day, so do the viable, sustainable packaging solutions from reputable sources. Empower your supply chain to: 
  • Source responsibly and leverage third-party certifications;
  • Avoid greenwashing;
  • Validate supplier claims;
  • Seek allies of strategic value;
  • Find cost and efficiency savings in collaborative efforts; and 
  • Make sustainability a competitive advantage by considering it a core value of your business.

>Defining True Sustainability

The Envi Portfolio

Key elements of the sustainability checklist Monadnock offers brand owners and supply chain partners:
  • FSC certified by Rainforest Alliance
  • Manufactured carbon neutral (VERs) with 100 percent renewable electricity (RECs)
  • Manufactured under a third-party certified ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management System and a third-party certified 9001:2008 Quality Management System
  • Process and/or elemental chlorine free
  • Post-consumer recycled content
Even if customers are not asking point-blank, we need to be prepared to answer the question, “What is sustainability?” Ask a guru like Eric Lowitt, managing director at Nexus Global Advisors, and you will hear, “Simply put, sustainability can be defined as prosperity in perpetuity.” The challenge for companies in the packaging industry is turning such lofty ideas into a to-do list. Third-party advisors like Lowitt can be a good resource for that exercise, and for the exercise of crafting the narrative around sustainability efforts as they progress. But there is a need for a baseline — a definition we can all agree on and aspire to.
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is an industry working group dedicated to transforming packaging into a system that encourages economic prosperity and a sustainable flow of materials. When talking about sustainability in packaging, the SPC has developed a useful definition we can use as a starting point. A sustainable product: 
  • Is beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle;
  • Meets market criteria for performance and cost;
  • Is sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy;
  • Maximizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials;
  • Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices;
  • Is made from healthy materials throughout the life cycle;
  • Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy; and
  • Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles.
While this definition is ecologically intelligent, socially beneficial and commercially productive, it’s also aspirational. We are challenged to define the areas in which we can encourage transformation, innovation and optimization, both for ourselves and for our brand owner customers. 
In practice, many factors affect the sustainability of a packaging system. Brand owners now have a vested interest in: 
  • The energy used in manufacturing;
  • Emissions created in manufacturing, printing, converting and shipping;
  • How raw materials are sourced and the efficiency of  converting those raw material into product;
  • The solid waste created by the process and what is done with it; and
  • The efficiency of the design and the printing and production process. 
It is, therefore, incumbent on us — materials manufacturers, converters and designers alike — to have a network of trusted sources in place, each with clear and substantiated answers to these questions. Be prepared to talk frankly about what’s in your product and how it’s made.
At Monadnock Paper Mills, innovation is driven by the needs of our customers. There is demand for sustainable packaging solutions that offer zero compromise in four areas: environmental impacts, aesthetics, durability and economics. From paperboard for boxes and packaging to hang tags, gift cards, graphic arts papers, wet-strength labels and wallcoverings, the Monadnock Paper Mills’ Envi Portfolio offers many options for brand owners looking to partner with a trusted source.

>The Road Ahead

While Monadnock is not perfect, we’re on a journey that the market is driving. We aspire to some lofty environmental goals, both because we live in a beautiful community in New Hampshire and want to keep it that way, and because concern for the environment has been one of our core values long before it became fashionable. But, perhaps most importantly, sustainable manufacturing and innovative, environmentally preferable products make good business sense.
In a 2012 survey of more than 3,000 brand owners, Boston Consulting Group found that two-thirds indicated sustainability as a source of competitive advantage4. As an industry that directly impacts what ends up on consumer shelves, the packaging community needs to remember that we provide, in essence, a giant billboard on which brand owners can advertise the socially responsible works of their company. We are at a crossroads where business opportunity and corporate responsibility meet, and innovation paves the road forward.
  1. “Containers & Packaging: Global Industry Guide,” March 2012 (
  2. “CPG Execs Provide Top 10 Trend List in PMMI Vision 2020 Outreach” (
  3. ibid
  4. “Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point,” Boston Consulting Group, MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2012 (