Packaging That Delivers

Packaging That Delivers

By Swathy Ramaswamy, Sr. Sustainability, Quality and Process Manager, Supply Chain
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Friday, August 8, 2014 - 11:10am



Packaging is a key component in protecting and transporting our products efficiently as they flow through our supply chain into the hands of the customer. Packaging also serves an important function in educating the customer on the features and functionality of our products while enhancing our AT&T brand.

Yet, the useful life of packaging is brief when compared to the lifecycle of our products.  As a result, it is important to consider sustainability in all aspects of our product packaging and ensure that we minimize its environmental footprint.  At AT&T, through our Packaging and Shipping Sustainability (PASS) program, we are improving various aspects of our product packaging including:

  • Material reuse and reduction
  • Use of environmentally friendly materials
  • Increasing recycled/certified content
  • Improving end-of-life recyclability and recycling
  • Improving transportation efficiency

We are using a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach to make improvements with standard packaging LCA software. This helps us ensure that the changes we make positively impact sustainability Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and packaging material/waste throughout the life cycle of the packaging.

Over the last few years, we have made significant improvements to our mobility device prepaid and post paid packaging, our DSL and U-verse equipment packaging, and the packaging used for shipping in our distribution centers.

So how are we making progress in 2014? Through the implementation of a couple of projects this year described below, we are on target to eliminate 800,000 pounds of packaging. This is equivalent to the carbon emissions avoided by keeping 1815 passenger vehicles off US roads in a month.

We recently worked with one of our network equipment suppliers, Alcatel-Lucent, to improve packaging for plug-in cards used in the AT&T network. These cards were previously placed in an inner box which was then placed with paper informational materials in an outer shipping box. We made process changes to maintain the informational materials electronically, thereby eliminating the paper and, more importantly, the extra shipping box. These changes also increased the number of boxes on a pallet by 130% and improved the overall transportation cube utilization.

Two recent projects in our Consumer supply chain involved GENCO and Precision Container (our 2013 Supplier Sustainability award winners) who worked with us to make improvements to our High Speed Internet Access (HSIA) and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) kits. The HSIA kits underwent a significant reduction (68%) in overall weight including both paperboard and plastic. In addition to the reduction, we replaced the High Intensity Polystyrene (HIPS) plastic in the HSIA kit with Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) which greatly improves the overall recyclability of the packaging. The DSL packaging had already undergone improvements in 2012 and 2013 but additional improvements were targeted in 2014. By eliminating one of the trays, the amount of plastic was reduced even further by 50% in these DSL kits.

By working with our suppliers to continually innovate new solutions, we can deliver all of the benefits customers expect from our packaging in an environmentally responsible way.

CATEGORY: Environment