An investigation into environmentally responsible beverage packaging
In this dissertation I construct and evaluate the business case for environmentally responsible beverage packaging as part of a sponsored project with both a theoretical and applied orientation. Theory on corporate sustainability and the win-win paradigm is investigated in the context of building a business case for environmental sustainability. My overall research question examines the likelihood that a win-win situation could be achieved in the most plausible business case for the introduction of an environmentally responsible beverage pack. Information for this project was derived through discussions with employees from six different departments at the sponsoring company and with 12 external current and potential value chain partners who may or may not be involved in any future introduction of a bioplastic beverage pack. Considerable background information was also researched as a basis for understanding the complexities of bioplastic beverage packaging and the assessment of a corporate environmental initiative. Regarding data analysis I took a reflective and pragmatic approach by assessing the above information against the background of my theoretical knowledge gained from relevant academic literature. I then decided on useful information to answer the research questions. I constructed the most plausible business case and assessed this case from an environmental and a financial perspective for further discussion with key stakeholders. Major findings include the multifaceted barriers opposing the introduction of an environmentally responsible beverage pack. These barriers threatening the realisation of a financial win encompass the high initial investment, compromised material properties, and the complexity of engaging value chain partners. The realisation of an environmental win is particularly threatened by the lack of management commitment to sustainability. I find that these factors make the establishment of a win-win situation particularly hard and are likely to result in trade-offs at the expense of sustainability. However, the difficulty in defining the impact of such a sustainability initiative on both environmental and financial performance hinders a precise assessment of whether a win-win situation could be established from the business case at present. I suggest that a major implication of my research for theory is the need for further development of metrics that support managers in holistically evaluating the financial impact of sustainability initiatives. Regarding recommendations to the sponsoring company, I acknowledge that at present, the business case for sustainability which I constructed in this project is unlikely to be strong enough to lead to the implementation of environmentally responsible beverage packaging. The practical value of my project is currently being assessed by the sponsoring company. At the very least, the research raised the sponsoring company´s executives’ awareness for necessary future steps if the company wanted to contribute to sustainable development.