Responsible procurement involves adding environmental requirements to such conventional procurement criteria as cost, physical characteristics and properties, and availability of a given material or packaging.

Strategy 1: Adopt responsible procurement criteria

Cooperate and communicate with suppliers

Beyond packaging optimization, it is important to take into account your suppliers’ environmental performance.

Here are some of the factors to consider when selecting suppliers:

  • Does the supplier subscribe to an environmental management system (ex.: ISO 14001)?
  • Has the supplier implemented a sustainable development policy?
  • Has the supplier implemented an in-house responsible procurement policy?
  • Has the supplier earned environmental certification (ex.: ICI ON RECYCLE!, LEED, ISO, etc.)?
  • Is the supplier proactive in terms of sustainable development accountability?
  • Can the supplier guarantee the chain of custody (harvesting and extraction)?
  • Is the supplier located near your own installations?


While this list is not exhaustive, it provides a basis for discussion with your suppliers. The objective is to select those who are able to demonstrate knowledge of their own environmental footprint and even show leadership in that regard.

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Action 1: Select materials carefully

Action 2: Select recycled materials


Action 1: Select materials carefully

Materials selection constitutes a key step in packaging design. Many factors must be evaluated on a parallel basis, including the characteristics of the product needing packaging, market requirements, the consumer’s or end-user’s needs, the identification of existing curbside recycling and processing systems. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Remember that there is no such thing as a “perfect” material: consumer expectations, the application context and availability of recovery infrastructures are all factors that influence materials selection;
  • Compare the environmental performance of various materials and packaging systems based on a life cycle analysis conducted in accordance with ISO 14040-44 standards;
  • Pay particular attention to the presence of toxic or dangerous substances in all components of the packaging system;
  • Consider the entire life cycle of the packaged product in the decision-making process.

Avoid dangerous or toxic substances

Chemical products as well as the migration of substances, contaminants or other products used in packaging and packaging component manufacturing can also increase risks to human health and the environment. The ban on BPA in certain containers and product packaging designed for infants and children is a case in point.

  • Implement a process to identify such substances and establish the chain of custody. Start a dialogue with suppliers on the subject, and provide design and procurement (buying) teams with a list of substances to be avoided or that are banned.
  • Reduce as much as possible the use of dangerous or toxic substances in all packaging system components, including basic materials, adhesives, additives, inks, etc. These substances can pose serious risks to human health and ecosystems at the manufacturing stage, during use or at end-of-life. It is therefore crucial to avoid them. There is an increasing variety of products, inks, glues and additives that meet strict health and safety standards.

Some concrete examples

View concrete examples of companies that have applied these strategies as part of their optimization initiative.

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Action 2: Select recycled materials

Selecting recycled materials to design new packaging and printed matter avoids the environmental impacts associated with extraction and harvesting raw materials and gives a second life to materials that are already in circulation on the market. Industrial ecology is a concept that encourages the reclamation of waste and residues from a business sector either by that same sector or by another. It’s the principle of “one person's waste becomes someone else's resource.”

Recovery systems that are already in place must also be considered when selecting materials with recycled content.

Pre-consumer recycled content

These are materials that are redirected from the disposal stream during the manufacturing process and introduced for use in a different industrial manufacturing process.

Example: Wood shavings collected from wood transformation processes are used to manufacture pulp and paper.

Post-consumer recycled content

These are materials that are generated by homes or commercial, industrial or institutional installations (in their role as end-users of a product), which can no longer be used for their original purpose.

Curbside recycling is the system that collects the greatest quantities of containers, packaging and printed matter that are marketed.

Seek recognized certification

The following table presents recognized certification programs. It is, however, important to seek certification from an organization with proven practices (transparency, ethics, values, thoroughness) or authorities responsible for certification management.

  • Forest management
  • Chain of custody
  • Products with recycled content
  • Worldwide
  • Forest management
  • Chain of custody
  • Products with recycled content
  • Worldwide
  • Forest management
  • Chain of custody
  • Products with recycled content
  • Canada and the U.S.

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