“There’s no such thing as a sustainable package,” Al Iannuzzi recently told me. “Every package has a footprint. But you can make a package greener or more sustainable through continuous improvement.”
Iannuzzi has reached this conclusion after working for more than 30 years in the environmental, health, and safety field, once working for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as well as at an environmental consulting firm. Iannuzzi is currently senior director in the Worldwide Environment, Health & Safety department at Johnson & Johnson and is charged with directing its global product stewardship and green marketing programs. These include leading J&J’s EARTHWARDS greener product design process, Healthy Future 2015 product stewardship sustainability goals, green marketing, environmental toxicology, and other related programs.
Iannuzzi includes the EARTHWARDS process in one chapter of his new book, Greener Products: The Making and Marketing of Sustainable Brands (CRC Press 2011). (He also has written Industry Self-Regulation and Voluntary Environmental Compliance (CRC Press 2002).
The EARTHWARDS process is used to examine product impact and the changes that can be made to make that product more sustainable. According to J&J’s site, to be considered for EARTHWARDS designation, “a product must achieve a greater than 10% improvement in at least three of the seven areas below:
• Materials used.
• Packaging reduction.
• Energy reduction.
• Waste reduction.
• Water reduction.
• Positive social impact or benefit.
• Product innovation.
“In EARTHWARDS, we do a high-level life cycle analysis, and we devised goals for packaging engineers,” explains Iannuzzi. “These include reducing the size and weight of packaging as well as the amount of materials used. We also encourage the use of more sustainable packaging like biobased materials or those that use postconsumer recycled content. We also identify whether we are using any materials of concern, such as heavy metals, certain inks, or PVC, which are on our watch list.”
Iannuzzi also explains that companies should reach out to their customers to understand their needs for greener packaging and where to make changes. “Packaging is the first thing nurses and doctors see. Product safety and efficacy are critical, but we do hear requests for sustainability across all our business sectors, including pharmaceuticals and medical devices,” he says.
J&J is a corporate member of PracticeGreenhealth, where healthcare organizations have come together to collaborate on best environmental practices. “There are a thousand-plus hospitals involved in this effort, so we definitely wanted to learn more from our customers,” he adds. “The best greener products are those that meet customer needs.”
Iannuzzi says that changing tertiary packaging alone can have a big impact. “We were able to do so pretty quickly by employing the returnable and reusable Greenbox for maintaining the cold chain for our Simponi drug. The packaging still has an impact, but it is significantly less,” he explains. The Greenbox has allowed J&J to use a shipper that is 50% lighter than its competitor’s shippers as well as reduce the disposal of Styrofoam, J&J reports on its Web site.
In his book, Iannuzzi offers case studies of more-sustainable packages from a number of companies and industries as well as explores regulatory drivers and best practices. He also discusses the need for working in tandem with marketing colleagues on “green” marketing. “It is important to communicate that your product and package are greener,” he says.
A chapter authored by James A. Fava, founder of sustainability consulting firm Five Winds International, covers environmental standards and tools.
Iannuzzi says he wrote the book to encourage others to develop greener products. “If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed,” he says.
When I asked him whether packaging professionals can help change their own companies and start sustainability programs, Iannuzzi says that “it depends upon the corporate culture.” He says, though, that he took a chance and made his own proposal to his boss back in 1999, and it was approved.