Our Priorities > Safeguarding the Environment Product Stewardship
Among other resource-saving changes in packaging, we reduced corrugated packaging for Abbott Nutrition 1-liter and 1.5-liter Ready-to-Hang liquid nutrition products. This redesign resulted in material reduction of more than 740,000 pounds annually.
New Similac SimplySmart™ packaging is designed to be fully reusable, even handed down to younger siblings and other children, year after year. The clear bottle is made from an engineered polymer that will last through many uses. Because the packaging is not discarded, waste is greatly reduced.
At Abbott, we are committed to responsible product stewardship. Our product stewardship strategy includes understanding and continually improving the life cycle environmental profile of the products we make – from the raw materials and services we procure for operations, through product distribution, end use and management of product residuals. As a health care company, the impact of our products on consumers and patients is also part of the product stewardship cycle. The environmental aspects of our product stewardship strategy are focused in the following priority areas:
- Reducing the environmental impact of our product packaging while keeping our products safe and effective
- Working with our supply chain to evaluate chemicals of interest
- Reducing pharmaceutical residuals in water
Abbott collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure appropriate stewardship of our products across our value chain. We are revising product features and design to enhance the safety and effectiveness of our products, while minimizing their environmental impact across the life cycle of manufacturing, storage, distribution, use and disposal.
With all of our health care products, Abbott’s primary concern is to ensure their quality, safety, integrity and ease of use. Product packaging plays an essential role in fulfilling those responsibilities. At the same time, we are well aware of the ways in which our product packaging affects the environment – from the materials and energy required for its manufacture through its ultimate end of life.
Abbott is committed to leadership in developing and implementing sustainable packaging innovations. We continue to work collaboratively to improve the social, environmental and economic benefits of our brands by employing sustainable packaging principles.
In balancing the need to reduce the environmental impacts of our packaging with the necessity of ensuring the protection of our products, we are guided by what we call the four Rs of sustainable packaging:
- Reduce – optimize packaging design to reduce the amount of materials used
- Renewable – source packaging with renewable materials when feasible
- Recycle – improve the use of recycled content in our packaging and expand the use of packaging that is recyclable
- Reuse – design packaging to allow reuse opportunities
Sustainable packaging is a necessary design feature of packaging materials and systems. For example, many of our milk-based nutritional products are contained in packages that can be shipped and stored without refrigeration for up to 36 months. This packaging reduces the energy used by consumers and distributors and is an especially important benefit for people in developing nations.
We strive for continuous optimization of packaging solutions that minimize our ecological impact and provide economic and social benefits. Looking at packaging through a sustainability lens enables us to consider the complete life cycle of impacts on energy use, emissions and solid waste.
Packaging Performance Targets and Progress
Abbott’s target is to achieve a reduction of 5 percent – or 12.3 million pounds – in the amount of packaging we use and distribute to our customers by 2013 versus 2007 levels. By the end of 2011, we had reduced the amount of packaging materials used by 3.9 percent, or roughly 9.5 million pounds. We continue to make progress toward our 5 percent reduction goal through multiple sustainable packaging initiatives.
Our achievements in 2011 included:
- Converting all U.S. Abbott Nutrition infant formula packaging to materials that do not use BPA in their manufacturing
- Reducing corrugated packaging for Abbott Nutrition 1-liter and 1.5-liter Ready-to-Hang liquid nutrition products, resulting in a material reduction of more than 740,000 pounds annually and delivering about $150,000 in cost savings
- Redesigning pallet patterns for ZonePerfect nutrition bars to permit double stacking of pallets during interplant shipments, reducing fuel consumption stemming from the use of fewer trucks
- Redesigning the 24-count corrugated shipping container for Abbott Nutrition 8-ounce plastic bottles, resulting in a material reduction in excess of 330,000 pounds annually
- Replacing air bags used for void fill at our European distribution center with environmentally friendly Cell-O Green EZ air bags that contain 100 percent recycled HDPE material
- Reducing board thickness on tertiary packaging for our Humira medication by switching to a single-wall corrugated box, saving more than 26,000 pounds of corrugate board
- Qualifying an optimized ocean freight distribution process for our Synthroid medication to reduce the number of shipments, saving more than 7 metric tons of CO2e emissions per year
- Redesigning paperboard cartons for our Creon medication to eliminate the need for multiple configurations, resulting in material reduction of 66,000 pounds annually
- Redesigning our clinical chemistry product cartons to reduce the number of paperboard inserts used, resulting in a reduction of 25,000 pounds annually
- Implemented an e-label site to allow customers of our Diagnostics division to download IFU inserts (instructions for use). The new Web site eliminated the need for translated inserts, saved 330,693 pounds of paper annually and delivered approximately $1 million in annualized savings.
Sustainable Packaging Partnerships
Abbott works with a number of industry and independent groups in the area of sustainable packaging, including the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. We work with suppliers who have achieved or are pursuing certification with respected sustainability organizations, such as the Forest Stewardship Council.
We continue our active sponsorship and participation with the Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability at Michigan State University, which we helped to found. The center is a leader in conducting research to reduce the environmental impact of packaging and distribution, assisting companies across the supply chain with the authoritative, science-based information they need to make sound decisions toward achievement of sustainable outcomes. In 2011, Abbott also initiated sponsorship of a research program at the University of Illinois to evaluate development of sustainable products and packaging for subsistence markets in India.
We also pursue green purchasing goals with suppliers around the world, working with them in many cases to help raise their own sustainability performance. We carefully screen suppliers, holding them to stringent packaging requirements. Additionally, we work with major retail customers to share information on packaging reductions we have achieved in our consumer products.
Chemicals of Interest
Abbott recognizes that consumers, customers, governments, non-governmental organizations and others increasingly have questions about the use of specific materials such as bisphenol A (BPA), Bis2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), melamine and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The presence of even trace amounts of these and other chemicals in products, as well as packaging, can create concerns about product safety, as well as the health of the environment.
We continue to ensure rigorous processes for identifying, evaluating and tracking chemicals of interest. Our Executive Product Stewardship Council reviews strategy and goals for minimizing or eliminating the use of such substances and ensuring that all new products and packaging are evaluated for the safety of their components. When new information becomes available on chemicals of interest, we evaluate this information through the accepted process of scientific peer review and evaluation. We also query our suppliers for chemicals of interest that might be present in the materials they sell us and in what amounts. Additionally, we have introduced new computer systems to more efficiently track the substances present in products and packaging.
Abbott is committed to reducing or eliminating the presence of undesirable substances in our products and packaging. We also seek to ensure that our products and product packaging will have minimal impact on the environment when users ultimately dispose of them. As always, our first priority is to ensure the safety and effectiveness of our products for those who use them.
Pharmaceuticals in the Environment
Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have been detected in certain U.S. waters and are thought to result from the flushing of digested and unused medication. Thus, one of the issues associated with pharmaceuticals in the environment focuses on the proper disposal of unused and expired prescription medicine.
We support the current efforts of both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). The EPA standards for disposal of unused or expired medication direct individuals to dilute unused medication with coffee grounds or kitty litter before placing the container in the trash. PhRMA, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Pharmacists Association, have partnered to form SMARxT Disposal, a consumer-focused program to educate consumers about proper disposal. Proper disposal of unused and expired medication can help prevent trace amounts from reaching water sources and also aids in preventing potential abuse.
Note: All data in the Global Citizenship section reflects activities prior to the separation of Abbott and AbbVie on January 1, 2013.