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ESG Programs at the Fore

By AICC Staff

July 9, 2021

width=667We have come a long way since the early days of Walmart sustainability more than 10 years ago.

Now environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is the new hot topic, mainly in Europe and Japan, and making its way into the United States. There has been an array of changes in this area since the beginning of this year. The AICC senior staff is often invited to seminars and other events with banks and financial institutions, which solicit our perspectives and keep us informed of changing conditions. The information here is from a two-day virtual conference with Deutsche Bank.

Here, we will look at and explain the difference in the priorities in the 17 elements on both sides of the big pond. You may need to look to suppliers such as International Paper, DS Smith (Mondi), LEIPA, SCA, Metsä, and Saica to help develop your responses to other suppliers, communities, employees, financial institutions, and politicians.

“Green infrastructure” will continue to be an ever-evolving subject. Corporate discussions around climate change and the reports from corporations will relate to the following subjects. This discussion will also extend to investments in green buildings and homes.

  • Renewable energy
  • Emissions and supply chains
  • Investors’ perceptions of climate change
  • Reduced energy
  • Scope 3 or greenhouse gases through the entire supply chain—upstream and downstream
  • Sustainable suppliers
  • Reduced waste
  • Measurement of emissions
  • Environmental awareness

The banking and investment communities are actively engaged in the performance of publicly traded companies that are responding to these initiatives. Although this may not directly impact you today, there is usually a trickle-down effect. Our responsibility is to make you aware of these changes and point you in the direction of more information. This movement was introduced by several authors in several articles in the March/April 2021 issue of BoxScore.

Robert Bittner, in “New Administration, New Possibilities,” speaks on the merging of environmental responsibility and social justice: the issue of low-income areas that are at high risk from environmental pollutants.

In ranking most important to least important, here are 17 areas that public companies, financial institutions, governments, and large box buyers consider significant in this politically charged culture. These are United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and companies report on these in their ilings, press releases, event transcripts, company presentations, and ESG reports. These are for the U.S. and not Europe, where, for example, education is the most important subject.

  1. Justice system
  2. Poverty
  3. Education
  4. Sustainable partnerships
  5. Hunger
  6. Affordable clean energy
  7. Health
  8. Climate change
  9. Inequality
  10. Sustainable cities
  11. Responsible production
  12. Gender equality
  13. Infrastructure
  14. Biodiversity
  15. Clean water
  16. Decent work
  17. Marine life

So given these criteria, how are you preparing yourself to respond? I remember the days when the Food Initiative, HazMat, ISO, forestry certification programs, heavy metals, water and energy usage, recycled content, emissions, dust collection, plant safety, mineral oil migration, and REACH—to list a few—were key of the day. Now layered on top of those are these new programs to keep us up at night. The growth in the discussion of these new is just beginning, including green infrastructure not listed above. Big companies that are under the microscope are becoming more concerned about the financial implications and reputation around biodiversity and destruction of natural ecosystems.

PortraitRalph Young is the principal of Alternative Paper Solutions and is AICC’s technical advisor. Contact Ralph directly about technical that impact our industry at