How Casual Conversation Sparked Sustainability in the Plastics Industry

NBS September 18, 2017
This article is part of a series examining how business leaders are driving real change by working with their industry associations to develop industry-wide sustainability programs. For examples of Canadian industry initiatives, read NBS’s Guide to Industry-Level Sustainability Programs.

During morning workouts and social lunches, friends Germain Archambault and Pierre Fillion often swap views on sustainability.

Archambault is the General Manager of Interplast Packaging, a company located outside Montreal that designs and manufactures see-through egg cartons. Fillion is President and CEO of the Fédération des Plastiques et Alliances Composites (FEPAC), an industry association for Canadian plastic companies, of which Interplast is a member. FEPAC is a member of NBS’s Industry Association Council.

Archambault believes social and environmental responsibility is a moral necessity for all companies. Fillion has seen that improving corporate sustainability can improve profitability. “We are both passionate proponents of sustainable business and have been a source of motivation for one another in this area,” said Archambault.

Casual conversations between the two friends about the links between sustainability and profitability led to the eventual creation of ECORESPONSIBLE. Managed by FEPAC, ECORESPONSIBLE is a sustainability certification for the Canadian plastics and composites industry.

To certify member companies, FEPAC helps them develop a mission statement and action plan to improve their social and environmental performance. Every two years, the companies are audited against their action plans. After a successful audit, they can use the ECORESPONSIBLE logo to promote their products.

In a Q&A with Archambault, we asked how he supported the creation of ECORESPONSIBLE and how it benefited his company:

NBS: How did you help FEPAC develop a sustainability program?

GA: Three ways: motivation and advice, walking the talk and speaking at industry events.

My role has been as a sounding board and motivator for Pierre. I provided feedback as he researched potential ways to structure the certification. For example, I suggested using an independent certification body to both guide program development and to certify company performance once the program was active. This is similar to what’s done in other certifications, such as the Bureau de Normalisation du Quebec (BNQ). (Editor’s note: The BNQ is part of a Stanadards Development Canada, a crown corporation dedicated to promoting effective standardization in Canada.)

I also made sure Interplast was walking the talk. If you don’t apply sustainability principles within your own company, it will be difficult to drive meaningful change across your industry.  Interplast has done this in many ways, but one of the most obvious is our employee development program. We offer employees five levels of technical training, from basic machine operation and quality control, to machine maintenance. Employee salaries increase with training. The company benefits from improved employee competency and productivity, and the employee benefits from higher pay and the development of tangible skills.

I also consider it part of my responsibility to speak at industry events. FEPAC often holds industry conferences, and I have spoken about sustainability at such events.

NBS: How has your role in developing ECORESPONSIBEL benefited Interplast?

GA: It’s given us opportunity for reflection and innovation.

Often, heavy workloads rob people of the time to reflect on their work. But reflection is critical to personal and corporate development. Working with Pierre and FEPAC allowed me to reflect on our own practices and have my ideas challenged. It also gave me access to new ideas. I could then take these new insights and apply them to Interplast.

The certification program also creates a chance to formally recognize Interplast’s sustainability activities. Certifications provide a credible way to prove you’re behaving sustainably. Development of ECORESPONSIBLE will allow the entire industry, including Interplast, to improve their sustainability performance and to get public recognition for their efforts.

To learn more about ECOREPSONSIBLE and other industry sustainability certification programs, read NBS’s Guide to Industry-Level Sustainability Programs.