24 - 26 September 2024 // Nuremberg, Germany


A holistic approach to responsibility

Transition in Packaging
© Optima

For packaging machinery manufacturers, sustainability is not just about the material. The machines themselves also contribute a great deal to the carbon footprint of the entire process chain, something that Optima has been aware of for some considerable time now.

As an internationally renowned machinery manufacturer with its roots in Germany’s historic Swabian region, Optima is one of those companies that can rightly call itself a ‘hidden champion’. Thanks to the wealth of experience it has accumulated over the course of a century, Optima can build on the knowledge of several generations of innovators. Alongside managing partner and owner Hans Bühler, managing director Stefan König is today continuing to shape the history of the mid-sized company from Schwäbisch Hall with the support of its almost 3,000-strong workforce. “We work for the who’s who of discerning customers worldwide. We have the ideal size of company, small enough to allow short communication channels but large enough to handle the challenging projects our customers entrust to us,” says the MD of the company’s strengths. 

For the company’s development engineers, the individual needs of the respective customer always takes centre-stage. Ultimately, the final product not only has to satisfy the customer but should also offer them the flexibility to meet their requirements for future changes. The engineering work is complemented by comprehensive services before and after the purchase of the equipment. “We work together to get the projects over the finishing line. In the process, we draw on solutions from the entire Group in our core divisions Pharma, Consumer, and Life Science,” explains König. The drive to keep the future of society, customers and the workforce in sight is also reflected in the corporate strategy, which is encapsulated in the motto ‘We care for people’. In this context, Optima’s holistic sustainability strategy plays a key role and is guided specifically by the principles of the circular economy. The aim is therefore to work with customers to develop innovative products and packaging solutions for a functioning circular economy. A second pillar of the mechanical engineering firm’s sustainability strategy is seen as the obligation to improve the carbon footprint of its products over their entire life cycle. “We are now in the position to calculate the product carbon footprint (PCF) on a project-specific basis and are working on reducing sources of CO2 in the production of the machine and its useful life. For the customer, this primarily means smaller machines with lower energy and media consumption,” explains König. To reduce their carbon footprint, companies can opt for climate-neutral machines, i.e., machines whose PCF has been substantially reduced and whose residual carbon footprint is then offset by Optima in its capacity as the manufacturer. “When customers then operate these machines or their entire plant with green energy, they are able to make quantum leaps in respect of their CO2 targets,” says the managing director. Moreover, many of the machines can already be retrofitted to accommodate more sustainable materials and packaging.

Clear-cut objectives

Optima aims to be a role model and has been purchasing green electricity since as far back as 2009. Additional measures have already allowed the company’s operational climate footprint to be reduced by 40 percent. Another package of measures is designed to reduce this value yet again by another 25 percent by 2030. The objective benchmark is provided by the internationally used Corporate Carbon Footprints with the classifications Scope 1 to Scope 3. 

Scope 1 comprises the systematic analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts directly resulting from sources owned or controlled by a company, e.g., company cars or emissions from heat generation. Scope 2, on the other hand, covers indirect emissions generated by purchased electricity, heating and process steam. As the last step under the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, the Scope 3 analysis completes the picture of the CO2 balance. It includes the value chain for raw materials or business trips undertaken by personnel, resulting in a holistic evaluation of Optima’s corporate carbon footprint.

According to König, the increase in energy and resource efficiency at selected company sites and the expansion of sustainable mobility are important cornerstones in this context: “To offset residual emissions, we invest exclusively in climate protection projects meeting the highest quality standard (Gold Standard CER) and therefore as of now will be working with the Baden-Württemberg Climate Protection Foundation. Via this foundation, certificates are obtained in collaboration with the provider myclimate.” Scope 3 emission categories have also already been offset through these channels.

Product protection and sustainability combined

Regardless of its own efforts, Optima wants to help successfully establish sustainable packaging on the market. One such example, says König, is a mono-material paper bag packaging for paper hygiene articles. Products using this packaging are already available in the retail segment worldwide. Other flagship projects are already under development and aim above all to optimally combine product protection and sustainable materials. 

“The main effect is achieved when the customer takes a holistic approach and optimizes their product along with new packaging. One such example is converting a liquid product to a dry product. I am already looking forward to the many upcoming market launches, which are sure to include genuine surprises for consumers,” says König. At FACHPACK in Nuremberg, visitors can engage in conversation with representatives of the company at the Optima stand and discuss future sustainability strategies and the most suitable packaging material to make them work.

“The right mono-material solution for a product that really needs a good level of protection is the sensible use of plastic,” stresses König. Bio-based and biodegradable plastics still offered a lot of innovation potential that should not at this point be confused with future possibilities. Generally, all materials had their place and would continue to be used in the future. According to Stefan König, the key issue is to have the right packaging design for a functioning circular economy. “And that’s what we’re working on together with our customers. Even if this requires an initial investment by all of us, it will absolutely pay off in the long term,” says König.