top of page

Denner’s Packaging Baseline

Retail has a major impact on the environment as the production of consumer goods is highly resource-intensive.  Agricultural activities, for example, use about 70% of global freshwater, 40% of the earth’s inhabitable land, and emit 24% of CO2 emissions. Packaging plays a vital role in minimizing food waste (extend shelf life), allow for adequate quality and hygiene standards, and protect goods during transportation and handling, while also serving other purposes such as marketing and convenience. However, packaging has become a considerable and increasing threat to the environment itself. The topic of sustainable packaging has gained tremendous momentum with consumer boycotts, government bans, and industry commitments. Likewise, Denner AG has announced to reduce packaging by at least 20% until 2025.

In search for data, the Sustainability in Business Lab (sus.lab) at ETH Zürich, realized there is no transparency regarding packaging quantities and their material compositions. How can packaging goals be achieved when packaging is not measured or monitored? Denner and sus.lab joined forces to build a data foundation, the Packaging Baseline, providing transparency for the industry, enabling monitoring of the reduction goal, and allowing systematic prioritization of optimization measures.

In June 2019 we started to unpack the entire national standard product portfolio, covering approximately 3’750 products. Linking the packaging data with sales data allowed us to calculate the absolute yearly amounts of packaging produced. Each packaging component of primary and secondary packaging was categorized according to its material composition, weighed and linked with Denner’s yearly sales data. While packaging weight can be an indicator of sustainability, Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) per material better quantify the environmental impact of packaging. The comprehensive baseline provides data on packaging quantity and CO2e emissions on a product level for an entire supermarket chain. Key takeaways are:

  • 3’750 products from the standard and national portfolio of the third largest supermarket in Switzerland produce roughly 50’000 tons of primary and secondary packaging per year.

  • 50’000 tons of packaging equate to approximately 80’000 tons of CO2e emissions per year.

  • Plastics and composites account for less than a quarter of the total packaging weight, but more than half of CO2e packaging emissions. Glass accounts for almost half of the total packaging weight, but for less than 15% of the CO2e emissions.

  • 49% of CO2e emissions come from beverages, 28% from fresh foods, 14% from long shelf-life foods and the remaining 9% from non-foods.

  • 85% of CO2e emissions are from primary packaging and 15% from secondary packaging.

The Packaging Baseline also provided the foundation for Denner’s packaging emission reduction goal, quantifying the amount for the base year as well as serving as a monitoring basis to track the progress towards the goal through regular data collections. Multiple analyses of the Packaging Baseline allowed systematic identification of products and product categories with high optimization potential. Thus, optimization and innovation projects were, and still are, prioritized for detailed evaluation, testing, iteration, and implementation.


Packaging Baseline Report
Download PDF • 3.81MB

bottom of page