Quad Sustainability Symposium Day 2: Don’t Sacrifice Progress for Perfection

October 23, 2020

Quad’s 5th Annual Sustainability Symposium Day 2, focused on packaging innovation, highlighted one important theme—don’t let perfection stand in the way of positive, tangible change. Presentations below spotlighted new ways to use recycled materials, a case for moving away from polybags and ideas to measure ongoing success.

All of Quad’s 2020 Sustainability Symposium sessions are available on demand here.

National Geographic: Making change that scales

Matt Moore, Director of Brand Management

How does an iconic magazine make the change from mailing in polybags to paper? According to Moore, it took a colossal effort to do it at the right time to have maximum impact. The change launched in conjunction with the National Geo’s ongoing “Planet or Plastics?” initiative in 2018. Moore noted the biggest hurdle for the change was resetting the team’s mindset to being good, not perfect.

National Geographic publishes 36 editions in 76 countries. Each has its own barriers for change — raw materials, manufacturing processes, postal systems, government regulations and even marketing by location. That didn’t stop efforts to eliminate millions of pieces of single-use plastics by starting in the U.S. alone. The global effort continues. What did they learn?

Consider new environmental impacts

Paper is more renewable than plastic. But it still affects the environment. National Geographic worked with partners in the supply chain to source raw materials from sustainably managed forests that meet criteria for either certification or verification. Then they collaborated with Quad to optimize logistics, including cutting transportation emissions.

Develop new opportunities

Paper wraps with two-color printing is comparable in price to polybags. For the brand, however, that wasn’t the main concern. National Geographic subscribers expect vibrant photography. The magazine opted to use four-color print on paper wraps. That made advertising more lucrative and better showcased the brand’s other channels, including the NatGeo foundation and programs streaming on Disney+.

Clearwater: Creating circular sustainability for greater impact

Barak Bright, Director of Product Management

Bright noted the United States generates 267.8 million tons of waste annually, 4.5 pounds per person each day. And China banned mixed recycled paper imports into their country in 2018. The result? America was exporting 40% of recoverable fiber, which was now ending up in U.S. landfills.

Collaboration at home can drive better outcomes than Bright’s example. Changing the perception of recycled fiber’s performance is crucial. Here’s what Clearwater is doing:

Create a circular economy

A circular economy is about optimization throughout the lifecycle of a product. The idea is to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. Sustainable forestry is a huge story for renewable materials. Now the focus is on helping consumers to keep products and materials in use.

Close the loop

Can “right-sized” packaging increase recyclability? Will better labeling encourage consumers to recycle? Can packagers increase use of sustainably sourced materials? The way forward has to be together—collaboratively improving recycling’s infrastructure.

Invest in the sustainability renaissance

Younger generations are buying differently and are willingly throwing support behind sustainable-marketed products. These products have a 39% higher price premium over conventional products. They have shown seven-times faster growth, too. That’s huge because technology around reuse drives better quality, lower costs, and drives premium price points for greater profit.

Quad: Knowing your brand’s Meaningful Purpose

Ryan DeLoge, Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator

Quad packaging division’s 2020 Sustainability Report outlines new ways to track progress and stay true to a company’s Meaningful Purpose. Here’s how:

Discover what’s important

Quad’s core values have expanded and evolved since 1971 with changes to our industry and society. Like all companies, we needed to find Meaningful Purpose for affecting real change as a responsible global citizen. Quad relies on satisfaction surveys to uncover what matters to customers, employees and suppliers.

Find your fit within the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

The 2020 Sustainability Report moved to adopting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Internal and external stakeholders helped decide which of the 17 UNSDG goals to focus on. The Quad packaging goals are:

  • Life on Land
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Climate Action
  • Quality Education
  • Reduced Inequities
  • Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Lean on the Global Reporting Initiative

The Global Reporting Initiative index gives companies common terms to effectively communicate impact, goals and Meaningful Purpose. GRI standards focus on material topics to help organizations prepare sustainability reports. Using the GRI can help narrow down which UNSDGs to work toward. This gives organizations a common language to share out with the public.

Read the recap for Day 1 of Quad’s 2020 Sustainability Symposium here and watch sessions from both days anytime on demand.