Broader focus on sustainability on three levels

26 October 2017

Verstraete IML’s effort to become more sustainable is evolving. Previously, we focused mainly on minimising the impact of our company processes on the environment — through energy-saving measures, for example — but today, we’re also looking at how to reduce the environmental impact of our products and our employees. It’s the next logical step — and it really matters!

Sustainability at Verstraete IML in practice

  1. Company processes: until last year, our drive towards increased sustainability focused mainly on saving energy in our company processes. It goes without saying that this remains an important point. Earlier this year, we installed solar panels, meaning our LED lighting is now powered by energy generated right here on site. Now, our attention is shifting towards ‘invisible losses’ such as water leaks or energy wastage as part of non-optimal processes, because sometimes, it takes no more than a week for the energy, which we have managed to save through years and years of energy-saving measures, to go to waste. The fact that we are now monitoring the efficiency of our cooling installations serves as just one example. As part of this innovative subsidised project, we have invested in sensors that measure the energy consumption of our cooling installations and raise the alarm if anything out of the ordinary happens. We also try to predict when one of the cooling installations might break down because of a fault. As soon as one of our installations starts performing less efficiently than expected, we take action to prevent expensive energy wastage.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  2. Product: the packaging on which our IML labels are placed is 100% recyclable, because both packaging and label are made from the same material. This means sustainability is an integral part of our products. However, in practice, only 10% of all plastic packaging is recycled. This is why Verstraete IML has decided to get fully on board with NPEC, or the New Plastics Economy: an international sustainability project that has brought together sixty major players to work together towards a circular economy for plastic packaging. NPEC is currently working on a system that will allow waste processing companies to automatically recognise and efficiently separate and recycle the different plastic waste flows they handle. Through IML innovations, we also try to support brand owners in extending the shelf life of their foods. The ecological footprint of food is significantly greater than that of packaging, so longer product shelf life can have a major positive impact on the environment — and innovations such as IML labels with better oxygen and light barriers go a long way to help.                                                                                                       
  3. Employees: we help our staff to live and work sustainably. To give just a few examples:
  • The installation of charging points for electric bicycles is encouraging our employees to cycle to work. We are also investigating the option of installing charging points for electric cars.
  • All paper has been removed from our sales process: we now operate 100% digitally. Banning paper has allowed us to reduce the amount of storage space we need, which has created extra room for our people — and that, in turn, has created a more positive working environment.