Avery Dennison Corporate / A Sustainability Conversation with Sarah Swenson and Gabrielle Armstrong

A Sustainability Conversation with Sarah Swenson and Gabrielle Armstrong

A Sustainability Conversation with Sarah Swenson and Gabrielle Armstrong

" This is the first step. SBTi is aligning everyone to make sure the 2030 goals are achievable and we really are net zero by 2050."

Following the news that Avery Dennison emissions targets have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), we spoke with RBIS’ Global Senior Manager Sustainability, Sarah Swenson, and LGM’s Global Sustainability Project Leader, Gabrielle Armstrong about how it impacts our organisation, the industry and ultimately, the planet.

Why is SBTi necessary to support our targets?
In the past, companies were able to set climate and sustainability goals and not back them up with data or disclose the science behind their plan to achieve them. So the SBTi really prohibits greenwashing. By signing up, we’re essentially saying we’re very transparent about the goals we’ve set and the data behind those goals, as well as how we plan to move forwards and achieve our targets.

GA: What makes the SBTi so important in this space is its alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement. They have set their criteria against that standard and have given corporations a way to translate their goals to align with data confirmed by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) as well as other reputable organisations. 

What does it mean for Avery Dennison to get this approval?
At a minimum it’s what Sarah just mentioned. It ensures we’re not greenwashing. Avery Dennison takes pride in doing things the right way - even if it’s not always the easy route. Being aligned with the SBTi criteria demonstrates and legitimises our commitment to being a force for good.

SS: It also shows we’re backing up our customers. From an apparel perspective we have many customers who are also signed up to the SBTi so it’s important to showcase that we as a supplier are in agreement and alignment with their sustainability goals and ambitions. We’re here to support them in their journey because we’re on the same path together, as an entire supply chain. 

How do you think the SBTi helps the industry as a whole move forwards into a more sustainable space?
GA: It makes it easier to draw a more applicable understanding of what it means to engage in the climate space, particularly as Scope 3 ramps up globally. It’s important to be able to measure through the same lens. 

SS: It validates everyone's data. It means we all follow the same standard and report on the same mechanisms so we can be as collaborative as possible. Ultimately to meet these very ambitious goals it’s going to take multiple supply chains and stakeholders across different areas. It provides a network and communication that enables us all to stay on the same page with our goals. 

How can Avery Dennison’s internal stakeholders work together to support these targets?
It's a case of looking at how we can be more energy efficient both internally and externally in our supply chain and in the products we create. So looking at how we utilise our machinery better, choose more sustainable raw materials, how we create more efficient processes, or even remove processes altogether. For procurement teams, how can we source more sustainable raw materials? How can we engage our supply chain, but also think about new materials we need to develop or encourage our suppliers to switch to renewable energy? The commercial team also has to be engaged so they understand how to sell the more sustainable products. I think everyone has a role to play here. 

GA: We’re also using this opportunity to develop tools internally with key stakeholders that have different expertise. If someone in R&D has a really strong grasp on where we’re heading innovation-wise, it’s imperative that they make decisions around the products they develop through the lens of these goals. Sarah and I might be the resident experts on sustainability on a broader scale but when it comes to individual product innovations, having that level of expertise be aligned across our objectives is crucial. So the more people who understand what we’re trying to do provides a deeper level of innovation.

Once we meet these targets, can we consider the job done?
This is the first step. SBTi is aligning everyone to make sure the 2030 goals are achievable and we really are net zero by 2050. It’s a huge step because we're doing all of this initial training across our internal teams to bring them up to speed with the lingo and ensure everyone is engaged in the process. By 2030 everyone should be completely on board so we’re galvanised for the huge push forwards to achieve that 2050 goal of net zero. 

Right now we’re focusing on a 30% reduction in our supply chain. Ultimately we need to get to 100%. So training, accurate data and metrics are really essential to have in place to meet those ambitious goals by 2030. But then the hard work will really start. We will have to make systematic changes to production and supply chains across the board.

GA: It’s important to clarify - and it’s what the SBTi recommends - having this incremental goal keeps companies from signing up to being net-zero by 2050 and waiting until 2049 to do anything about it. We’re doing a lot of heavy lifting upfront to get the journey started in a really meaningful way. Of course that's all in pursuit of the net-zero ambition.

What other organisations are important when it comes to supporting the industry as it moves towards regeneration?
GA: I think some really big players are some of the rating frameworks such as CDP, GRI and SASB. While you can choose to see ESG ratings as retroactive efforts, these regulatory frameworks provide guidance for where progress is heading. They're constantly updating and setting the standard for how we should be looking at these topics. It helps collate all these moving parts so we can gain a more succinct understanding. From LGM’s perspective, EcoVadis and the companies that help us assess the supply chain and identify hotspots that we need to focus on, are really essential as well.

SS: As soon as investors started highlighting these assessments and how the rating can affect share prices, it opened our industry’s eyes. Financial teams, who previously saw sustainability as an issue outside of their remit, suddenly saw the direct impact. Making that connection has been helpful to move the industry forwards. The ESG space has moved forwards leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. 

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and WWF are also important organisations to help us collaborate across supply chains and build networks to create joint projects. While we’re all in this together, these initiatives also bring about the pre-competitive nature to meeting the goals.  

For Avery Dennison, what’s next on the sustainability agenda?
As far as LGM goes, we’re coming at it from a much bigger perspective. We previously had a strong program for scope 1 and 2 initiatives but they were quite siloed. Other sustainability topics were siloed as well such as sourcing renewable content was done in an effort to support our Sustainable ADvantage product portfolio, or we’d focus on paper certification to reduce deforestation. But when you start looking at scope 3 you see how one thing exacerbates another. Deforestation exacerbates climate change, and recycling material prevents GHG emissions that occur during breakdown in landfills. You see how interlinked it all is. So coming at it from a holistic perspective is really the next step. We’ll start to show how each small factor plays collectively because it’s important that employees across the organization can see how what they’re doing is much broader than the metric in front of them. This will translate to the regenerative future that all of our stakeholders can see and be part of.

SS: From an RBIS perspective, it’s about getting full engagement. We have to make sure there’s a baseline of everyone’s understanding - not just the engineering and sustainability team. We’re focusing on how we make our products, developing product sustainability roadmaps so we all understand how to transition these products - that let’s not forget are making a profit as they are - into a much lower carbon product. So we need to understand what that means in all of our fields and areas of expertise. Sustainability isn’t the domain of just one team. Everyone has to understand their role and responsibility to meet these goals by 2030. And then we have to think about that broader 2050 goal. 

We have to ask ourselves what we need to do from a very long term perspective. What is the industry going to look like that many years down the road? How can we prepare both ourselves and our teams, and the industry, and how do we adapt as a company in that new marketplace? 


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