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March 9, 2022

“Cardboard gets broken down and recycled when, in fact, there is still so much value in it” – Modibodi sustainability & social impact lead Sarah Forde.

Brand owners, such as Modibodi, are searching for innovative packaging ideas to help achieve ESG targets

By Ryan Ellington

In early-March, Australian apparel brand Modibodi announced a tie-up with not-for-profit environmental organisation Canopy that will investigate sourcing the clothing’s packaging from waste. To hear more about the ‘Pack4Good’ project, Packaging Gateway’s Ryan Ellington spoke with Modibodi’s sustainability & social impact lead, Sarah Forde.

Modibodi sustainability & social impact lead Sarah Forde

What are your responsibilities at Modibodi?

I look after our supply chains and their ethical sourcing. I work with the product team around the materials we use, and packaging falls into that. We make choices on what those materials are and that obviously has some form of environmental impact.

Who are Canopy?

They’re a global organisation out of Canada. Their whole premise is to stop the destruction of ancient and endangered forests. What you don’t want is that you buy paper for your packaging and then it’s like ‘wow’ it’s a hundred-year-old tree that was chopped down and chipped.

If you tell that sort of angle of the story to anyone they go: “That’s terrible!”. I don’t want that.

People would be horrified to think that the habitat is being cut down to make packaging that gets used for such a short period of time and then thrown away. Even if it can be recycled and you can use it again – forests are so important for our health, biodiversity and clean air.

Canopy’s Pack4Good programme commits you to moving your packaging away from being sourced from ancient and endangered forests.

What type of packaging does Modibodi currently use?

We use FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) recycled paper. The way to ensure some transparency and accountability within your supply chain is to defer to standards. They’re your best source to ensure that something is being produced appropriately. Everyone along the supply chain should be following that. 

With Pack4Good, the quality of the packaging is still good. It’s more that we’re demonstrating a demand for packaging that has certain standards and adheres to our values and expectations. What we’re trying to do is create that demand. We really have to think about what goes into our packaging.

Do you see any cost factors in making this move?

Not really, because you can choose the supplier. The impact on costs is on those suppliers that aren’t thinking about this.

We’ve already chosen specifically a supplier who already sources FSC paper. In packaging, you’re missing out on business if you’re not doing this. Plenty of brands, like Modibodi, make choices on certifications and standards.

Where is packaging in priority terms for clothing brand owners like Modibodi?

Packaging is an extension of your product. Just as how we look at what materials create underpants, we look at what materials go into the packaging, where it comes from and who the suppliers are. It also plays a part in our ESG targets 

What would an ideal packaging system look like to you?

At the moment, there’s a huge amount of cardboard that gets shipped all around the world. A lot of that cardboard gets broken down and recycled when, in fact, there is still so much value in it – that’s a huge waste of resources and a cost to my business.

Ideally, what you want is packaging that can be reused at the other end in a circular-type system. It needs a new smart sort of model or mechanism.

What lessons are you learning that you can share on the packaging front?

Many companies are making choices about who they work with, based on sustainability principles. If manufacturers aren’t offering these, they’re not actually ahead of the game. They need to demonstrate that they understand the value of natural resources.

I think there are huge opportunities for those that are smart.

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