The importance of partnerships and collaboration were a major theme of a sustainability-focused panel comprising managers from Target Stores, Winn-Dixie Stores, and WhiteWave Foods that convened at Pack Expo. More…


The importance of partnerships and collaboration for retailers and consumer packaged goods companies were a major theme of a sustainability-focused panel comprising managers  from Target Stores, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., and WhiteWave Foods Co. that convened at Pack Expo. The stimulating session, entitled “Downstream Consumer Trends’ Effect On Upstream Manufacturing,” also included Mike Faupel, program manager for the Applied Sustainability Center at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. 
Target’s Kim Lymn, senior manager for packaging, said in her opening remarks that sustainability is not just about reducing packaging; a holistic approach is needed. She sees the retailer’s primary role as educating and connecting with consumers. 
Lymn related how Target was working on promoting on-carton that wind power was used in the packaging. A problem arose because the carton’s back panel became overwhelmingly crowded with claims. They also discovered that the supposedly favorable carbon footprint was undermined because the cartons were shipped from Connecticut to the packaging plant in California. She was excited about the company’s involvement in the Global Packaging Project, supported by organizations including the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Target’s sustainability efforts also encompass Target’s private label brands, though “there are opportunities to partner with national brands,” Lymn said.
On-staff engineers help Target “connect the dots” in sustainability, she added.
Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. decided to focus on internal sustainability programs to train and educate staff, particularly their buyers. Wesley Bean, senior director for strategic sourcing, who had previously worked for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., also emphasized that “sustainability requires a lot of-and a change in-partnerships.” He acknowledged that Winn-Dixie’s lack of in-house sustainability expertise compels the company to follow the industry’s lead. “We’ve brought in external package design experts,” he said. 
In one success story, the retailer partnered with a beverage supplier to co-purchase plastic resin for bottles to drive down costs for both organizations.
Ellen Feeney, executive VP of responsible livelihood for WhiteWave Foods, makers of Silk soy milk and International Delight coffee creamers, echoed that partnerships upstream and downstream of the company in the supply chain were crucial, as was transparency. She added that “more collaboration is needed.” The company is a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.
Because of  WhiteWave's foundation in organic products, it already had built-in awareness of broader sustainability issues for its core consumers when it initiated packaging sustainability in a major way by starting Lifecycle Assessments (LCA) in 2006. “Packaging is the most symbolic [sustainability aspect] to consumers,” Feeney said.
Faupel, who is involved with the Sustainability Consortium, said that LCAs were a large part of sustainability measurements. He also referenced a study that found 75% of consumers want sustainability information on product packaging. 
All noted the importance of measurements and metrics, particularly the use of widely adopted standards. “Consistency and measurement of packaging attributes are what the Global Packaging Project addresses,” said Lymn.
Feeney observed that “capital expenditures are already driven down by tight return-on-investments. As we build a business case as to why we need to do this or that project, I need data.”