With growing awareness about the threat of climate change and the greenhouse effect, the international community is trying to come up with urgent action, particularly through the Paris Agreement, leading multinational companies in Thailand and local food and coffee chains to gear up to keep abreast of such changes.
Some consumer product companies are now adopting "reduce, reuse, recycle" strategies and making all their product packaging 100% recyclable or reusable, with some developing new alternative packaging like edible utensils to replace plastic ones.
The commitment to changes by both global and local players is inevitable, because consumers themselves are now expecting more for sustainability in goods and services.
Producers on the move
"It is encouraging to see more people concerned about the environmental impact of their lifestyles and the products they purchase," said Robert Candelino, chief executive of Unilever Thailand. "It's also great to see that people are increasingly asking companies to lead the changes."
Nestle's 3 NESCAFE packaging initiatives: NESCAFÉ PROTECT PROSLIM paper pouch, NESCAFÉ Latte and Black Ice RTD in 100% recyclable aluminum can, and the use of biodegradable cups at NESCAFÉ HUBs.
Mr Candelino said Unilever itself has realised the global trend and introduced the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, an actionable blueprint for sustainable growth, in 2010. The USLP has been implemented in Thailand and elsewhere around the globe.
By 2025, the group will convert all of its packaging to be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable, cut in half its use of virgin plastic, and collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.
"We at Unilever see this as an opportunity and a responsibility for the main leading actors in society -- governments, NGOs and businesses -- to come together to drive real improvements and programmes to drive the change," Mr Candelino said.
Unilever's homecare bottles, using 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials.
In Thailand, according to Mr Candelino, all of Unilever's homecare bottles are already using 100% post-consumer recycled materials.
Furthermore, the company is investing in buying higher-quality plastic that can be reused many times in the system, thereby creating more circularity. For example, Sunlight is the No.1 best-selling dishwashing liquid in the country, and in the last three years the company has reduced plastic use by 770 tonnes a year and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 56%.
"We are investing similarly in many of its existing categories and we are committed to ensuring our innovations are even more sustainable," Mr Candelino said. "Not only is this good for the planet, but we can grow our business. In 2018, our 28 sustainable living brands grew 69% faster than the rest of our business. That's up from 46% in 2017. They also delivered 75% of our overall growth."
Since 2010, Unilever's total waste footprint per consumer use was reduced by 31%. The company also committed to ensuring that 100% of its plastic packaging would be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
The company is committed to increasing the recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025.
Victor Seah, chairman and chief executive of Nestle Indochina, said his company is on track to pursue Nestle's global ambition to achieve zero net GHG emissions by 2050. To achieve this ambition, Nestle's global specific actions include speeding up the transformation of its products in line with consumer trends and choices.
Nescafe in paper secondary packaging, aiming to help reduce the amount of plastic used by nine tonnes per year. The paper used for the NESCAFÉ PROTECT PROSLIM paper pouch has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to ensure it has been processed following a globally-responsible forest management standard.
Nestle will launch more products that have a better environmental footprint. It will also look to reformulate its products using more climate-friendly ingredients and move towards alternative packaging materials.
"More people are buying products that are environmentally friendly," Mr Seah said. "Climate change is one of the greatest risks to the future of our business. This is why we are setting a bolder ambition to reach a net-zero future. Our journey to net-zero has already started. Now we are accelerating our efforts."
The company has introduced Nescafe packaging innovations, including Nescafe Protect ProSlim paper pouch and Nescafe Latte and Black Ice ready-to-drink in 100% recyclable aluminium cans. In addition, the company uses biodegradable cups at Nescafe Hubs.
"We are satisfying the growing local consumer preference for environmentally friendly packaging," Mr Seah said. "We are speeding up the transformation of our products in line with consumer trends and will launch more products to the market and also reformulate our products using more climate-friendly ingredients."
Ines Caldeira, chief executive of L'Oreal Thailand, said the group has had a sustainability commitment since 2013 called Sharing Beauty With All, aimed at cutting its carbon footprint by 60% by 2020.
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN PHOTO Ines Caldeira, chief executive of L'Oreal Thailand; Victor Seah, chairman and chief executive of Nestle Indochina; Nescafe's Protect ProSlim paper pouch; Unilever's Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid in bottles using 100% post-consumer recycled materials and Robert Candelino, chief executive of Unilever Thailand.
"We exceeded this target in 2016, four years ahead of schedule, and growing our production by 29%," Mrs Caldeira said. L'Oreal has been recognised as Global Compact LEAD by the UN and stepped up its climate action by committing to zero-net emissions by 2050.
L'Oreal has a target that by 2025, 50% of its products' plastic components will be recycled or bio-sourced and 100% of its plastic packaging will be refillable, rechargeable, recyclable or compostable.
In Thailand, L'Oreal Paris Botanical haircare and Kerastase Aura Botanical are the pioneers in eco-friendly packaging introduced by the company. The bottle is 100% composed of recycled plastic (except for the caps and pumps) and can, in turn, be sorted and recycled after use.
In addition to new products, L'Oreal Thailand has initiated a reduction of sachet size to use less material. It also removed plastic lining covering tissue masks, as well as reduced the size of the packaging.
"According to Kantar, a research company, 60% of consumers in Asia are happy to pay more for a brand with strong sustainability credentials," Mrs Caldeira said. "In Thailand, research shows that Gen Z wants to make the world a better place. Some of the priorities include sustainability and climate change. We think that this may correlate with their consumption behaviour and choices.
"Sustainability is a new licence to operate, and it's the condition inherent to the company's long-term success and to safeguarding our planet. It's clear that corporate social responsibility is a strategic issue for L'Oreal."
Local food operators are also joining the parade.
Paisarn Aowsathaporn, executive vice-president for food business at Oishi Group, a SET-listed food and drink company, said the company's sustainable strategy will focus on three areas: recycle, reduce and reuse.
L'Oréal Paris Botanical haircare and Kerastase Aura Botanical are the pioneers in eco-friendly packaging that was introduced in Thailand recently. The bottle is 100% composed of recycled plastic (except for the caps and pumps) and can, in turn, be sorted and recycled after use.
The "recycle and reduce" schemes have already been adopted, changing the company's gyoza and sushi packaging via delivery to paper boxes from plastic four months ago. It also uses a single plastic box for rice and noodle bowls.
"All packaging via the delivery channel will be completely 100% changed to sustainable packaging within the next two months," Mr Paisarn said.
The company has started a reuse scheme by serving grass packaging for its mineral water instead of plastic bottles.
"We see that the reaction from our customers is very positive," Mr Paisarn said. "We are moving further with the sustainability initiative by developing alternative packaging, including edible kitchen utensils."
Nescafe in 100% recyclable aluminium cans
Pravit Techavijit, chief executive of Terinex Siam Co, the packaging manufacturer under Duni of Sweden, said he has seen several organisations in Thailand, particularly food and coffee chains, show increasing concern about global warming.
Some food chains such as Bar B Q Plaza changed their food packaging to eco-friendly, even though the cost is higher than that of plastic packaging.
"We started gearing up to make eco-friendly packaging in Thailand years ago," Mr Pravit said. "We see a better-than-expected response from food chains in the initial step of the revolution. More chains are under negotiation. It is a good sign."