Over the past few years, the Solvay Packaging Purchasing team has implemented a series of initiatives with significant benefits for the Group. The actions have been developed in partnership with our main suppliers, customers, and plants, and reduced Solvay’s COfootprint in the EMEA region by over 3,500 tonnes last year.

The actions we have implemented are built around the three axes: Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle. They include purchasing second-hand pallets, rebottling or cleaning intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), and the collection and re-use of packaging after delivery.

For example, the Silica and Polyamide GBUs re-use ‘big bags’ after they have been emptied by customers. A service provider collects, sorts, and cleans the bags before returning them to our plants. Ten years after the GBUs first trialed this system they are meeting 40 percent of their needs with re-used big bags. 

Steel drums are another common packaging solution for Solvay products. By reducing the thickness of the steel drums it utilizes by 10 percent, Novecare Ospiate has cut packaging costs significantly. The drums have exactly the same performance level, but emissions (and costs) are reduced during their production and use due to the lighter weight.


Is that amount of packaging necessary?


Another way my team improves our footprint is by reducing the level of unnecessary packaging. To do that, we systematically challenge the packaging specifications required by the plant. By working closely with the plant we can eliminate unnecessary options, standardize the size or type of packaging, or reduce its weight by proposing an alternative material.

Green Packaging - What leverage do we activate ?

Implementing these solutions requires strong collaboration between Solvay’s supply chain team, regulatory bodies (for dangerous good), and our customers. And we need to obtain approvals from all of those parties, usually within a very tight timeframe. To ensure we achieve our goals, my team must demonstrate their skills in project management, patience, perseverance, and change management every single day!

We also count on innovative ideas from our major suppliers. Companies such as Greif, Mauser, and Schutz are continuously developing and proposing sustainable packaging. Some are able to provide a customized global carbon footprint measurement for Solvay, not just in Europe Middle East & Africa (EMEA).


Improving engagement with vendors key to future success


We have made significant progress in the last five years. Some GBUs have already developed sustainable packaging supply chains and have extended it to all of their plants. What we need to improve is our engagement with Solvay’s vendors to promote those best practices and propose new ideas such as collecting packaging from the customer.
Our final customers are key stakeholders in this process. My team is always ready to provide them with the information they need. We also attend customer meetings to support our packaging vendors. In many cases, proposing a sustainable packaging solution provides Solvay with a competitive edge as our customers are constantly looking for ways to reduce waste and improve the sustainability of their operations.

For the first time, we have measured the impact of our green packaging initiatives. In 2015, around 15 percent of our total packaging budget for the EMEA region went on green packaging solutions.

Our goal for 2016 is to use green solutions for 25% of our packaging needs while generating additional COreductions and benefits for the Group. We have also committed to share our best practices and success stories with Solvay’s global packaging network so that they can capitalize on our work.