How Packaging Can Support a Sustainable Supply Chain

No matter what industry you operate in or what goods and services you supply – every business has a supply chain. It’s one of the fundamental aspects of being in business.

In recent years, there has been a focus on supply chain sustainability and the larger impacts that producing and selling products or services can have.

We’re experts in packaging, not supply chains – but we do understand that packaging is an essential component in a supply chain. We wanted to share some thoughts on how packaging can play a role in a more sustainable supply chain, especially for small businesses.

What is a supply chain?

It takes many steps to make and sell a product. The supply chain is an umbrella term that refers to all these steps. It covers every link on the path to a finished product – from sourcing raw materials to manufacturing, packaging and delivery. A supply chain ends when the final product reaches its final customer.

stack of cardboard boxes in a store room

This means that multiple supply chains can intersect. For example, our cardboard suppliers’ supply chain ends when their sheets are with us at the factory. But our supply chain continues as we manufacture boxes for our end customer.

This overlap has one more layer though. Even though our supply chain ends with boxes in your hands, your supply chain is still in the middle, as you have to package and deliver goods to your customers.

Every business, whether large or small, works with a supply chain. While a big business might manage lots of supply chain components in-house, a smaller business is more likely to work with trusted partners to complete each step. For example, a major retailer might have its own fulfilment centre and delivery network that packs orders and sends them to customers. Whereas a local boutique might have a single shopfront and use the local post office for delivery.

Defining supply chain sustainability

Supply chain sustainability is about focusing on the larger effects that supply chains have on our world. This includes their economic, social and environmental impacts.

A sustainable supply chain is one that can be used for the long-term with minimal negative impact on each of these areas. For example, sourcing raw materials from a responsible and eco-friendly supplier is one way you can minimise your impact on environmental concerns. In the fashion industry, working with garment makers with ethical employment practices is another important step in a sustainable supply chain.

Supply chain sustainability can have many different meanings, depending on what industry you work in and what steps your supply chain takes. What they all have in common is a commitment to having a positive or neutral impact on the world.

Sustainable supply chain vs green supply chain management

Another concept you might come across is green supply chain management. But how is that different to a sustainable supply chain? The answer is easier than you might think.

The main difference between a sustainable supply chain and a green supply chain is the areas you focus on for positive impact.

  • For a sustainable supply chain, you are looking at all of the social, economic and environmental impacts of your supply chain combined.
  • In a green supply chain, you are focused primarily on the environmental impacts. These include reducing waste, limiting toxic chemicals in production and minimising greenhouse gases.

cardboard offcuts in a green bin

The importance of mapping your supply chain

One of the best ways to ensure your supply chain is making a positive impact is to map it. Mapping your supply chain means listing out every step and identifying any risks or negative impacts to address. To do this, you need to write down all the steps from start to finish. This is known as your end-to-end supply chain.

An example of a generic supply chain might be: sourcing raw materials, manufacturing and processing, packaging, transportation and delivery. There is an opportunity in each of these areas to make sure your supply chain is doing its best for your business and the world.

  • Purchasing: consider if the suppliers you buy raw materials from are acting sustainably
  • Manufacturing: look at whether the way you make your product can be improved
  • Packaging: examine your packaging choices and whether they support sustainability
  • Transport: look for the most efficient transport routes and methods, including electric vehicles

You might work with another company on some of these steps. It’s worth asking them about their own supply chains, so you can be sure that your partners are as committed to sustainability as you are.

cardboard manufacturing factory floor

How your packaging can support supply chain sustainability

Packaging is an important step in many supply chains around the world. Whether you are pursuing a green supply chain or a fully sustainable one – this is a good area to examine and make changes. Here are five ways you can work toward supply chain sustainability with your packaging.

Choose low impact materials

Packaging can’t be avoided – products need it to stay safe in transit. So, it’s important that you’re choosing low impact materials, like corrugated cardboard.

One of the greenest options is to go for recycled packaging which is made with recycled materials. We turn our manufacturing offcuts into new materials which is how we make recycled boxes.

Recycling cardboard can reduce its strength profile, which is why sometimes using virgin fibres is better. We source our virgin fibres from sustainable suppliers who focus on using the entire tree carefully and plant more for every one they harvest.

Read more about what makes corrugated cardboard an eco-friendly choice.

Energy efficient manufacturing

Once you have sustainable materials on board, you should be thinking about how you can produce packaging in a sustainable way.

The Echo Cartons factory is run on solar power – which means our energy production is renewable. This also help us contribute to a circular economy, by ensuring that we are minimising energy wastage in the day-to-day running of our business.

solar panels on factory roof

Local employment

A sustainable supply chain goes beyond green initiatives – it focuses on the importance of people as well. At Echo Cartons, we are proud to support local employment and believe we have built a great working culture within our teams.

Here are three reasons to choose an Australian packaging manufacturer.

person at work in factory

Local delivery

There are lots of packaging suppliers based overseas who can offer affordable pricing – but their delivery methods can have a huge impact on the environment. Choosing a local supplier can help with shorter delivery distances and give you more transport options, like road and rail.

Echo Cartons’ factory is based in Braeside, Melbourne. We offer fast lead times and efficient delivery for customers around Australia. We’re also specialists in short runs, which means no minimum order size and no wasted boxes for your business.

Box design

With 25+ years’ experience in cardboard packaging, our team can offer expert advice on your packaging needs. That includes tricks like getting the right flute sizing and designing the best size box for your needs.

Smaller boxes are a simple way to support a greener supply chain. You use less materials, can fit more on a pallet and can even reduce packaging costs for your business.

Getting the flute sizing right is important with any box, but it’s especially useful for minimising the weight and limiting material wastage.

Trusted partners in your supply chain

Echo Cartons are a family-run business based in Melbourne. We are serious about sustainability and have already taken steps to improve our own practices and supply chain.

Working with SMEs around Australia, we believe in providing great packaging at affordable prices. For any questions, simply contact our team. When you’re ready to kickstart a packaging order – you can request a quote.

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