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Packaging giant DS Smith produces 30m boxes daily for FMCG and retail clients and has 21,500 employees worldwide, operating at 250 sites in 25 countries. In line with its aim to help customers achieve their sustainability ambitions, the company is actively tackling its environmental footprint. UL has helped DS Smith to make a rapid transition from manual data collection to a sophisticated, web-based sustainability software solution, improving the quality of its reporting and achieving a 22-point increase in its CDP score.
DS Smith wanted to transform the way it collected, managed and reported its sustainability data in a short space of time. This would involve moving away from data being stored in localised silos to a centralized data management system whereby data could be monitored at regional, divisional and group level. With a growing stakeholder interest in transparency and some 85% of its biggest customers requiring their suppliers to support their sustainability goals, there was no time to lose. Additionally, the system would need to be flexible enough to allow the company to scale its data management activities in line with its growth as a business, sustainability priorities and evolving climate change policies.
DS Smith began working with UL EHS Sustainability in January 2014, attracted by the flexibility of the system and its clean, simple, easy-to-use interface. The UL team helped DS Smith to develop a full picture of its business structure and built this into the system so that the company could accurately reflect the sustainability performance of all 250 sites.
Some 330 users now have access to the system, with at least one user at each site. The company has begun with 15 environmental indicators spanning energy, waste, water and transport, as well as material flows, all of which are translated into 12 languages. Sleek interactive dashboards allow users to view data in multiple ways, across different geographies and business units, with the ability to visualize data on ‘image charts’ proving particularly popular.
Within six months, the system was designed, configured and went live, with DS Smith making a comprehensive CDP submission and improving its score from 63 in 2013 to 85 in 2014. Two months later, DS Smith produced its first sustainability report, complete with a data assurance statement from Bureau Veritas. In addition, DS Smith’s Sustainability Director values the ability to scale data collection activities as the company’s understanding of the system evolves and the business grows.
DS Smith now has an efficient, robust way to capture, manage and analyze environmental data, in line with customer requirements. The company is tracking progress against its three major carbon, water and waste targets at a group level. The work undertaken by UL to create an accurate representation of the company’s business structure proved valuable to the wider business and DS Smith’s Sustainability Director commented that structuring the data in such a robust way would be integral to sound decision-making.
Internally, the company is encouraging users to make the most of performance dashboards and compare progress between sites. With greater visibility of its environmental footprint and data stored centrally for all locations, DS Smith is also well equipped to provide key sustainability data to customers rapidly, earning respect and trust in the process. This increasing confidence in its sustainability efforts is also reinforcing its commercial relationship with customers.
Importantly, the DS Smith Sustainability team is demonstrating the link between improved environmental performance and profitability to senior executives internally, helping to ensure that sustainability gains ever more attention and priority. Being able to generate reports that are just as precise and comprehensive as those being routinely produced by functions with a longer history of Group reporting, such as Finance – backed up by evidence – is central to this achievement.
Looking ahead, DS Smith plans to incorporate responsible fibre sourcing information, in line with customer requests, expand its data collection to property level and use the system to streamline the preparation of its sustainability reports and CDP submissions.