THE SUSTAINABILITY TRANSITION IN FOOD PACKAGING –
STUDIED FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF COMPANIES
processes through which
systems shift to more
sustainable modes of
consumption” (Markard et
al., 2012, p.958).
Picture: Geels, 2002, p.110; Geels, 2004, p.915.
WHAT IS EXPECTED TO HAPPEN IN SUSTAINABILITY
TRANSITIONS, AND WHAT DO WE SEE IN FOOD
• Availability or push for innovations, able to break
through, finding enough system support
• Changing societal values and expectations which lead to
– Changing policy and regulation
– Changing media coverage & discourse
– Changing consumer demands & behaviours
– Changing supply chain demands & behaviours
CHANGING SUPPLY CHAIN DEMANDS &
Yes, our research shows, for example, that food producers are
(1) Signalling need for change
(2) Supporting change
(3) Driving co-innovation
(4) Buying differently
(5) Developing own material/packaging innovation capacity
WHICH KEY BARRIERS HAVE WE IDENTIFIED?
See Package Heroes policy recommendation:
TO OVERCOME BARRIERS, WE NEED COLLABORATION
Collaboration is seen as essential
• To get on the same page, create a common language
• To solve complex sustainability issues
– Multi-party perspectives and knowledge is needed
– One cannot act alone
• To speed up the transition
– moving from an emergent change process to decided change
• To increase predictability in the change process
– Understanding what will happen: agreeing on what steps need to be
taking, and who needs to do what and when
COLLABORATION DOES TAKE PLACE ALREADY
Companies in the food packaging value chain are
collaborating through different associations, alliances,
and other structures.
THESE COLLABORATIONS PLAY DIFFERENT ROLES IN RELATION TO
• Member Harmoniser: works to maintain the status quo by ensuring members
remain “united” against change
• Change Protector: works to maintain status quo through their influence on the
environment of the members (influencing perceptions, ideas, policy suggestions,
• Innovation Supporter: works to promote change by supporting their member
organisations to co-innovate, help them cope and function better in the changing
• Change Facilitator: works to promote change by involving members and non-
members in dialogue, strategic planning and innovation.
WHAT DO WE STILL NEED? WHAT DO WE
KNOW IS ONGOING/COMING?
• Facilitated dialogues and negotiation ongoing
– Green deal implementation of SUP-directive
– Renewal of MATSIT
– Renewal of Producer responsibility organizations
– But also, externally organized, e.g. Package Heroes’ Perjantai pakettiin
• Package Heroes: takes on a change facilitator role (WP1, in
collaboration with all other WPs):
– Organizing a Transition Arena – aiming to produce transition pathways - by
deciding where we want to be concretely and then planning how we will get
there and what each actor needs to do on the way.
Overall story of the presentation:
The sustainability transition and its challenges in food packaging - studied from the perspective of companies
Barriers in the sustainability transition
High uncertainty: relatively fast changing customer demands, policy and regulation
High complexity: multiple, sometimes contradicting/hard to combine demands
High interdependence: multiple systems (food, packaging, materials), and thus multiple regulatory frames, different priorities, etc.
High investment needs to innovate, to implement new pack. solutions, but unclear what solution to invest in
Sustainable solutions being seen as competitive advantage no collective solution building
What is being done to still move into the direction of sustainable food packaging:
the actions food companies take which communicates their direction/future needs
5 important is to highlight that cross-system collaboration so far leads to “exclusive” solutions, not broad
what meta-organizations (company associations) do in the field to help their members
The key solutions are found in collaboration by by researchers – mid-term planning (Hyysalo)
facilitated processes by MMM/YM,
transition arena work by PH?
Thus,, among firms in different fora /policy, self-regulation, etc.
The work I have been involved in focuses on understanding the sustainability transition in Food packaging, and we particularly are interested in looking at this transition from the perspective of companies
So what, what is a sustainability transition?
It is a “long-term, multi-dimensional and fundamental transformation processes through which established socio-technical systems shift to more sustainable modes of production and consumption
And it is argued that this change process is influenced both by the exogenous context, the landscape, and the innovations that are essential to the change.
Note, that the change process we look at is both a social change and a technological change and that it is seen as intertwined, which means that culture, consumers, companies, policy ect all are involved in this change process to more sustainable modes of production and consumption.
Then, what is happening in food packaging? NEXT SLIDE
In Food packaging we see:
Availability /push for innovation
There is search for different materials (especially, bio-based materials, bio-degradable materials & coatings, better recyclable materials); search for different packaging solutions used for particular products (for example minced meat into a sleeve instead of b- check term); search for different business models – e.g. reuse, etc.
Changing policy and regulation:
Main emphasis is on reducing packaging waste and pollution by promoting circular economy (packaging recycling and reuse)
Plastics strategy for CE
Circular Economy Action Plan, including Sustainable products initiative
Update of Packaging and packaging waste directive
Challenging role of biodegradable and bio-based plastics
Regulatory framework for biodegradable and bio-based plastics (in progress)
Role of recycled plastics
Revision of food contact material legislation
Limited focus on food packaging in relation to food waste prevention: Farm to fork strategy
Changing media coverage & discourse:
The heavy attention on plastics in the ocean, fear of microplastics which is found in all kinds of places.
And then there is the heavy attention to climate change and the actions needed by all.
Changing consumer demands & behaviours
Many companies when doing research on their consumers note that sustainability, and the sustainability of packaging material are a concern.
Changing supply chain demands & behaviours
See next slide
(1) Signalling need for change: Setting sustainability targets
(2) Supporting change: Acting as a testbed for potential innovations
(3) Driving co-innovation: initiating new package solution projects
(4) Buying differently: reducing plastics, materials that are recyclable
(5) Developing their own material/packaging innovation capacity
Thus, we see movement in food packaging, whereby the stable system that existed is being shaken, but we also recognize that we are not yet at the end of this transformation process. For business these change processes are both a challenge and an opportunity, but most often it is seen beneficial to come to a more stable situation. In our research we have identified (NEXT SLIDE) a few central interconnecting barriers for getting to a more stable situation.
In our research we have identified (NEXT SLIDE) a few central interconnecting barriers for getting to a more stable situation. Why are we still not there?
In food packaging we have a number of specific circumstances which are forming barriers in the transition to more sustainable modes of production and consumption
Multiple, sometimes contradicting/hard to combine demands
In Package Heroes’ policy recommendation, where this picture is from, we highlight that food packaging, due to is multiple functions, needs to deal with multiple sustainability demands simultaneously.
Such as the prevention of food waste and material efficiency, carbon neutrality, circularity, and so on.
This as such is already problematic, but what we in addition see is that changing customer demands, societal views, and policy and regulation create high uncertainty
In addition these barriers in the environment, also the nature of food packaging business creates its own barriers, or challenges.
Multiple systems (food, packaging, materials), and thus multiple regulatory frames, different priorities, etc.
High investment need – but in a very uncertain environment the Return on the Investment remains more uncertain.
To innovate, to implement new pack. solutions, but unclear what solution to invest in
Sustainable solutions being seen as competitive advantage which means there is little active collective solution building
The barriers highlighted: High complexity, high uncertainty, high interdependence, high investment needs and high competition can not be tackled by individual companies, they call for collaboration.
Collaboration is seen as essential
So, what kinds of collaboration structures are there?
Meta-organizations are understood as aiming to protect members from destructive influences from their environment
Some meta-organisations do actively promote and support members to change
They have their own agenda – and power.
Refer to the title – All these structures are supporting interaction, knowledge chairing – but action is left to individual companies.
Collaboration in goal settitng
Collaboration in collective action
But collaboration, does not, of course, mean that this leads to change automatically. Based on our study of the roles played by collaborative structures we identified four different roles.
While some of the collaborations focus mainly on one of these roles, though often roles are combined – for instance trying to maintain status quo, while still helping members to prepare for change.
Our research showed that in the food packaging transition, we particularly lack or miss the change facilitator.
That is, helping the whole value chain to define where to go, how fast and how to solve the barriers on the road.
So, to manage and implement the transition in food packaging more quickly, more interaction among these sectors is needed, aimed at envisioning the future together, as well as the pathways in through which to travel to such a future
The different associations highlight the need for change facilitation, but they also indicate that it is not “their” role to take.
The kind of collaboration that we identified as still needed is focused on finding shared solutions to the barriers - active work of ensuring a common frame for change – a shared idea of the change pace, and how to collectively solve the obstacles in the change process – the point here is that we need companies to work together to find industry wide solutions and food product specific solutions. In our continuation of the package heroes project, we specifically will work on understanding how we can deal with competition law, and solving barriers created by competition.
Thus, moving from emergent to decided changes – and moving from discussion and information exchange to shared solutions and decisions. Making the environment less uncertain and helping to