Exclusive Sustainability Video: Wouter van Tol, DS Smith

Neil Perry from BizClik welcomed Wouter van Tol, Head of Sustainability and Community Affairs at DS Smith, to discuss the challenges of its industry

In a fireside chat, Wouter van Tol, Head of Sustainability and Community Affairs at DS Smith, offered a comprehensive insight into the challenges and opportunities facing the packaging industry in the pursuit of circularity and carbon reduction.

DS Smith, a key player in the paper packaging sector, operates on a circular model encompassing recycling, paper production, and packaging. Van Tol highlighted the complexities within this system, acknowledging the industry-wide challenges of plastic pollution, regulatory hurdles, and increasing demands from customers for sustainable solutions.

One notable challenge discussed was the impact of burgeoning e-commerce on packaging. DS Smith has responded proactively by training designers in circular economy principles to optimise packaging efficiency, minimising waste and reducing carbon emissions, particularly in response to the surge in online shopping.

Key sustainability challenges highlighted by DS Smith

  • Challenges in the packaging industry include plastic pollution, increasing regulations, and customer demands for carbon reduction and circular solutions.
  • DS Smith addresses challenges by training designers in circular economy principles and redefining packaging to reduce waste and improve efficiency, especially in response to the rise of e-commerce.
  • They engage in educational initiatives and advocate for integrating sustainability throughout the organisation and supply chain.
  • The industry is making strides in sustainable packaging solutions, such as replacing problem plastics with recyclable alternatives.
  • While offsetting is a last resort, DS Smith focuses on direct emissions reduction strategies and explains the need to consider trade-offs between circularity and carbon emissions in sustainable packaging design.

A key takeaway from the discussion was the importance of education and outreach. DS Smith is actively engaged in educational initiatives, offering free lesson plans on circular economy principles. Moreover, they emphasise the need for integrating sustainability throughout the organisation and supply chain.

Van Tol also addressed the industry's strides towards sustainable packaging solutions, including efforts to replace problem plastics with recyclable alternatives. However, he cautioned against misconceptions, highlighting the need to consider trade-offs between circularity and carbon emissions in packaging design.

Throughout the conversation, the importance of direct emissions reduction strategies was emphasised, with offsetting seen as a last resort. DS Smith prioritises efforts to reduce emissions through initiatives such as regenerative forestry practices.

Overall, the fireside chat provided valuable insights into the multifaceted challenges and opportunities in the packaging industry's quest for circularity and carbon reduction. DS Smith's proactive approach and commitment to sustainability underscore their leadership in driving positive change within the sector.

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