When it comes to protecting the environment, details matter. “Quite often, brands may think that a label is such a small part of the overall product, and ask themselves how much impact could it have?”, says Rosalyn Bandy, Avery Dennison sustainability manager, North America. “It turns out that when you buy many millions of square meters of label products, reducing the material can have a big impact and we can help brands understand that better”, Bandy adds. Case in point: The cosmetics company L’Oréal Americas.

After L’Oréal launched the sustainability platform “Sharing Beauty with All”, Avery Dennison offered to do a Greenprint assessment for L’Oréal Americas. Greenprint was introduced in 2010 and is the first environmental lifecycle assessment tool in the label industry. It measures the environmental impact of labels across the six categories: fossil material, trees, water consumption, energy, greenhouse gases and solid waste.

As a result of the assessment, L’Oréal Americas is transitioning the labels for some of its leading products to Avery Dennison’s extra-thin Global MDO product. By providing twice the number of labels per roll, Global MDO produces 40 % less solid waste and requires 37 % less energy to manufacture. Plus: The 33 micron PET film is fully recyclable.

According to Avery Dennison, L’Oreal thus reduced its environmental impacts for these labels between 7 % and 19 % across the categories of fossil material, water use, energy use, GHG emissions and solid waste. “The Global-Ex versus Global-MDO comparison is just one example of many reduced material products,” says sustainability manager Bandy. “We also offer products improving the yield of the PET bottle recycling process and have a responsible paper sourcing policy.”

For a sports socks brand, Avery Dennison’s packaging suggestions based on the partial lifecycle assessment performed by the Greenprint tool resulted in the elimination of fossil materials, a 23 % reduction in water use and a 56 % reduction in energy use, among other benefits.

How much energy or water a company could save by switching to a different label or packaging solution depends on the product. “We are often asked, which is better for the environment, film or paper”, Bandy says. But there really isn’t a standard answer. In some cases, there are tradeoffs such as a sharp decrease in water use but an increase in the use of petroleum. “We provide the data so that they can make a decision, but we don’t make the decision for them,” says Bandy.

Ideally, Avery Dennison would like to do a full lifecycle assessment with primary data coming from each member of the supply chain – but that would be a challenge requiring more time and resources than currently available. Avery Dennison’s tool is based on Sima Pro data and includes some primary data from suppliers and Avery Dennison’s own products. To comply with the ISO 14044 standard, a third party consultancy provides data assurance. Avery Dennison also supplies information about the methodology, the data sources, the category definitions and other lifecycle assessment information with every Greenprint assessment for a high degree of openness and transparency.

Users can expect even more from the new version of the Greenprint tool that is currently being developed. Avery Dennison plans to expand the scope and boundaries of the tool after sustainability experts at several major brands had signaled their interest.

For Avery Dennison, sustainability is an important part of its business. The company’s sustainability goals for 2015 include “reducing greenhouse gas emissions indexed to net sales by 15 % from 2005 levels” and “create market-leading sustainable materials and solutions”. For Bandy, this is a logical outcome of the company’s efforts to become more sustainable. “We decided to focus on areas in which we could have the greatest impact and set challenging targets,” Bandy says. Avery Dennison has made good progress toward these goals and will announce new, even more ambitious goals for 2025 later this year