Valuing Natural Capital & Assessing Waste Recovery: A Study of Amcor’s Flexible Packaging (2017)

Client Organization: 
Amcor
Project Location : 
Ann Arbor, MI
Summary of Project Idea: 

Goals & Objectives:
This project has two components for the student team to research:

  • First, students will assess the post-consumer waste and potential recovery of Amcor's flexible packaging for inclusion in Amcor's sustainability assessment, lifecycle analysis, and production.  
  • Second, students will provide a valuation of the natural goods and services Amcor uses to produce its products, identify current risk management approaches to the highest valued goods/services and highlight gaps, with recommendations for how to manage those risks. 

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance:
As one of the largest and most innovative global packaging companies, Amcor has the power and potential to become a thought leader in post-consumer waste recovery and reuse. By providing a roadmap for incorporating post-consumer waste estimates into sustainability assessment reports as well as creating global metrics for potential waste recovery and reuse, we have the ability to help Amcor address negative social and environmental externalities from their operations. Additionally, natural capital risk assessment and valuation is key to controlling overuse, exploitation, and inefficiencies. As Amcor is a leading company, by helping this one company improve, this is an opportunity to help move the packaging industry as a whole.

Specific Activities & Duration:
Research methodologies will include:

  • Desktop research of publicly available information and Amcor’s internal communications
  • Interviews with stakeholders including employees, management, suppliers, customers, and partner organizations such as World Food Programme, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Ocean Conservancy,
  • and Earthwatch, and industry groups including Sustainable Packaging Coalition and APPR.
  • Life cycle assessment of flexible packaging
  • Natural capital valuation and risk assessment

Integrative Approach:
This research requires both quantitative and qualitative analysis and would benefit from a diverse team with students who have different strengths. The project will benefit from students who have analytical experience as well as students who have strong communication skills.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Justice
Sustainable Systems
Role for each program area: 

CE: Understand the ecosystem services Amcor uses to produce its products, and apply natural capital valuation to assign values to these services

EPP: Apply knowledge of post-consumer waste, waste recovery, and global risk assessment policies, planning and efficiency. Awareness of other ongoing global initiatives, current legislation and potential new policies to combat post-consumer waste and waste recovery.

BEC: Understand Amcor’s training and approach to sustainability assessment, interactions with partner waste recovery organizations in order to determine best practices going forward, and natural capital supply chain. Analyze interaction logistics amongst all players in the flexible packaging supply chain to ensure optimal and accurate sustainability reporting and natural capital risk mitigation. Work across team to create a communicable model of scalable sustainable practices and risk mitigation action plans, to be applied globally. Additionally we will research how natural capital be used to influence behavioral change at the individual and corporate level.

EJ: Understand the social repercussions of Amcor’s products’ post-consumer waste and apply knowledge of environmental justice concerns and action plans to make sure certain groups are not most affected by the waste produced and natural capital utilized. Also, raising awareness about post consumer waste, and the ways in which Amcor’s flexible packaging can increase the shelf life of products, may be most beneficial to those with financial constraints and infrequent access to fresh food sources.

SS: Knowledge of systems thinking, post-consumer waste systems, including waste supply and collection and best in class usage, life cycle analysis, and natural capital system assessment.

Team Size: 4-5 

Professional Career Development Benefits: 

Students will have the opportunity gain key insight into supply chain and life cycle analysis and to engage with multiple members of the Amcor teams, as well as communicate with partner organizations such as the Trash Free Seas Alliance, WWF, etc. Students will also gain comprehensive understanding of the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical packaging industry and exposure to the decision-making process in a global corporation.

Privacy Considerations:

Amcor requests that students on the team sign an NDA. 

Funding Sources: 

Amcor funding will be available to take the students on a tour of a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), an Amcor production site, and an Amcor R&D office. Amcor will also cover other project costs such as printing and incidentals.

Identify expected products/deliverables: 

Deliverables: Performance data and a report of the students' findings, roadmap, suggested metrics to measure packaging recovery, and global application recommendations will be provided, and will include data sources, bases for assumption, evaluation methods, trends, and action plan. Word doc and powerpoint slide deck. 

Implementation: Recommendations will be shared with Amcor's Sustainability leadership team through a videoconference.

Contact full name: 
Leonore Hijazi; David Clark
Job title: 
Amcor’s Safety, Environment, and Sustainability Manager (Leonore); Vice President, Safety, Environment, Sustainability (David)
City: 
Ann Arbor
State or Country: 
MI
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Ming Xu
Contact Phone: 
734-302-4384 (Leonore)
Contact e-mail: 
Contact information: 
SNRE student
SNRE alum
Member of a SNRE/Erb advisory committee
Staff member of a potential client organization
Our Organization has been an SNRE master's project client in a previous year
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Malcom Albin, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Alexis Apostol, MS/MBA Behavior, Education and Communication/Environmental Justice
  • Helen Lee, MS Sustainable Systems
  • Carl Spevacek, MS Conservation Ecology
  • Nikole Vargas, MS/MBA Sustainable Systems
  • Julio Villasenor, MS Sustainable Systems 
SNRE Student contacts: Alexis Apostol (apostol@umich.edu); Nikole Vargas (nmvargas@umich.edu)
Project Status: 
Past Project