Until fairly recently, people did not really understand just how serious problems rising carbon levels in the atmosphere could mean for the planet and us all. But right now, we are seeing the world around us changing. Glaciers are melting, forest fires destroy large swathes of land, and hurricanes and typhoons are hitting coastal countries harder than ever.
Emission reductions are only the first step
The recent IPCC climate report showed that the time to act is now. There is more than a 50% chance that global warming will exceed 1.5 °C in ten years' time.
"It is clear that we need to start reducing the amount of fossil carbon emitted into the atmosphere and increasing the capacity of forests to act as carbon sinks. The aim is to head towards a future where we can be neutral in our impact or, even better, regenerative by design," says Robert Taylor, UPM Raflatac's Director of Sustainability.
The first step to take is to start emitting less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
At UPM Raflatac, reducing the footprint of products means using less raw materials, increasing the use of renewable as well as recycled materials, and making it easier to recycle our products. Manufacturing and logistics are made as efficient as possible to use less energy, and we use more and more renewable energy.
"Our reduce focus is critically important. However, our products still have a residual climate impact which cannot be avoided today. Therefore, the only way we can achieve carbon neutrality is to compensate for the remaining emissions. That means investing in certified offsets which compensate for the equivalent amount of carbon."
Certified and compensated
The first carbon neutral products in UPM Raflatac's portfolio are selected CarbonNeutral® certified RAFNXT+ label material. As a first in the labeling industry, UPM Raflatac helps its customers to make a smart choice by CarbonNeutral certified options of selected RAFNXT+ labeling materials.
"For us it is crucial that we work with credible, recognized partners, so that we can be sure that our investment is going to the right place – that the reduction in carbon emissions we are paying for is really happening," Taylor points out.
UPM Raflatac selects compensation projects that tackle the root causes of climate change, are linked to UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and bring additional benefits, by supporting local communities, for example.
The projects UPM Raflatac has chosen to support promote clean cooking solutions in China and Bangladesh, improved water infrastructure in Africa, and grassland conservation in the United States.
"All our projects are independently validated and verified to recognized third party standards; through a detailed assessment, we quantify and articulate the benefits delivered. Our comprehensive network of project partners also gives us unrivalled access to carbon offset projects being developed around the world," says Natalie Taylor, Director of Client Engagement at Natural Capital Partners.
Pressure from governments and consumers
UPM Raflatac's commitment to a future beyond fossils is echoed by the end users of its products and brand owners around of the world. Many businesses are now setting their own climate targets.
"Brand owners are looking for solutions that will help them reduce their impact. Now we can offer a label that compensates that impact to zero and enables them to use that when calculating their own footprints," says Taylor.
The pressure on brand owners is building from two sides: governments and consumers. Carbon fees or taxes are looming large on the horizon, and in places they are already in force. Consumers are demanding more sustainable choices to take part in the battle against climate change.
McKinsey's survey from the end of last year showed that consumers are even willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. At the same time, better labeling on the packaging, explaining its sustainable attributes, and increased availability would encourage 23 to 61 percent of the surveyed consumers to buy more green packaging.
However, becoming carbon neutral is not simple to do, and it must be robust and credibly certified. There is still a lot of uncertainty among customers as to what exactly it means and how you can go about achieving it.
"We are lucky at UPM, as we have the sustainability expertise in-house and we are collaborating with the right partners to enable us to share our insights with customers and support them in their efforts to reach carbon neutrality."