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Smurfit Kappa Group is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of paper-based packaging products, employing 38,000 people in 31 countries. According to CEO Gary McGann, sustainability is an integral part of its business strategy, and perfectly compatible with profitable growth.
Smurfirt Kappa Group has placed sustainability at the heart of its business strategy for many years, according to McGann. "In the business we're in - we own forests in Latin America, and we are very significant interactors with forestry in Europe - we've always been mindful of the need to renew and replace trees that are cut basically for paper purposes," he says.
From that starting point, the group has today moved into the areas of recycling, of optimal use of natural resources and avoidance of land fill, and of course of lowering carbon emissions, he continues. The company recently issued its third annual sustainability report, a useful discipline, he says.
"It creates a greater discipline internally. If you publish you have to be satisfied that what you're saying is valid. It has also created a greater discipline in how we challenge and measure ourselves, so that we're always calibrating and quantifying and setting targets."
It is a strategy that makes good business sense too, he says. "We've always caveated our approach to sustainability and the environment on the grounds that it also has to make commercial sense," he says. "In fact it has major commercial value and benefit to us as a company, in parallel with the positives for the environment.
"Commercially it obviously suits us to be more progressive than our competitors. The big international brand companies, they're way down the line in terms of commitments, demands, desires and progress on this subject. Unless people can actually serve them to the standards they are seeking and requiring, then they won't be able to be suppliers.
"Everybody is looking for testimony and evidence of progress on sustainability. We've said we will take the totality of our business and ensure that we can, through our products, allow customers to communicate to their customers that what they are acquiring is the most sustainably progressive.
"We in turn are working with our suppliers. In the case of forestry we're ensuring that in five or 10 years all of our product raw materials will be Chain of Custody certified, and we will be able to confirm the levels of CO2 emissions, the level of water discharge, and the water cleanliness."
McGann believes that larger organisations must play a role in helping small businesses meet the sustainability challenge, if they are not to become excluded. "In this current climate, it's difficult for a company or a sole trader to invest in something unless they know there's a genuine and timely payback. It's important that there's recognition in the broader business society that we must work with smaller suppliers and try to give them not just demands, but help in terms of getting them accredited."
Gary McGann is one of the speakers at the launch of the Carbon Disclosure Project Ireland Report on October 18 in the Convention Centre. For full speaker details or to request an invite CLICK HERE