Creating value through sustainable packaging


A few years ago, CSR was often seen as a parenthetic business area rather than a commercial driver. Today, CSR is no longer a satellite activity hovering in the outer sphere of a business. The question is no longer whether a company has a CSR programme, but rather what kind of CSR programme it has and how this contributes to the overall value creation. In an industry under pressure from both regulators, retailers to reduce the environmental impact of its operations, Carlsberg defined in 2012 a bold CSR ambition: To position itself as a frontrunner in the brewery industry within sustainable packaging – and to do it fast.

Sustainable Packaging programme

Packaging is an important feature of Carlsberg’s products. It’s an essential part of marketing, affecting how customers and consumers perceive the brand and products. Driven by Group CSR, Carlsberg therefore decided to implement a new sustainable packaging programme – to quickly establish a leadership position while also ensuring bottom line value creation and exploiting the PR and branding potential.

The sustainable packaging programme builds on four pillars: reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink. Read more about Carlsberg’s sustainable packaging initiative.
First, Carlsberg decided to turn the spotlight towards lightweighting. Today, a glass bottle weighs 20% less than it did 20 years ago, but Carlsberg saw the potential of reducing weight even more.

“Lighter products mean that less energy goes into manufacturing and transport. It’s good for the environment, but it also reduces the cost of procuring the bottle. To us, sustainability, or CSR, is business, it’s not something that’s detached”.

Simon Hoffmeyer Boas, Senior CSR Manager in Carlsberg.

Carlsberg in numbers

largest brewer in the world

majority-owned breweries in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia

employed in 2012

A complex domain

Carlsberg also launched a project focusing on generating positive impact by developing Cradle-to-Cradle® products. Cradle-to-Cradle® is a certificate awarded to products made by environmentally safe and recyclable materials, requiring co-operation among various stakeholders in the value chain. Through this initiative, Carlsberg sought to ensure that the materials used in beer cans can be used again – perhaps in another beer can, or even in your next iPad or bike.

Packaging is a complex domain in Carlsberg, involving a wide range of stakeholders, not to mention tonnes of glass, carton and aluminium. To drive the high-speed transformation, Carlsberg set up a collateral process with ambitious initiatives at group level combined with local targets at country-level.

“One of the things that made this project special was the parallel set-up, creating a productive process between the Group and the markets. Selected

markets participated in generating and testing hypotheses as well as setting ambitious yet realistic targets. Here, a key tool was the global database which contains aggregated information about the weight and CO2 impact of Carlsberg’s global packaging portfolio for all SKUs”, says Simon Hoffmeyer Boas. “The database has enabled us to compare weight across all products and markets and identify best practices as well as the CO2 reduction potential of decreasing the weight of our packaging”.

Only few companies dare to take the full plunge and let CSR drive vast changes throughout their supply chains. But the tables are quickly turning. As Carlsberg demonstrates, the potential benefits from using CSR as a driver to fundamental change are many: Not only is the positive impact on society and the environment a benefit in itself, but it may also generate substantial gains in terms of finances, PR and ethical stakeholder relationships.