EMC’s sustainable packaging program promotes innovation and maximizes environmental performance in packaging across the product lifecycle. We collaborate internally and externally with suppliers and other stakeholders to identify opportunities, generate ideas and implement projects that reduce environmental impact and cost.

Developing more sustainable packaging presents challenges and opportunities related to material selection and consumption, greenhouse gas emissions from freight, and waste generation and recycling. We consider packaging from a lifecycle perspective without losing sight of our highest priority: protecting our products. This perspective is a gateway to explore new materials and design features, improve user experience, and address end of life considerations. All of these aspects impact cost and waste reduction for EMC and our customers. Moreover, our packaging design choices visibly demonstrate our commitment to integrating sustainability into how we do business.

2015 Highlights
  • 77% of our high-volume, customer-facing packs have been optimized for sustainable materials and/or “right-sizing”
  • We trained our suppliers in EMC’s sustainable packaging scorecard methodology and requirements
  • We matured our strategic framework to boost sustainable packaging around the product lifecycle

Our Approach

EMC’s approach to sustainable packaging includes these elements:

  • Product sourcing — we work with suppliers to apply sustainable packaging best practices in our inbound supply chain (shipments from suppliers to EMC).
  • Right Sizing — we emphasize “right-sizing” the packaging of our finished product to reduce excess material weights and volumes. This helps to lower costs and fuel consumption, as it allows more product to be loaded into each truck, plane, ship and train used to transport our products to our customers.
  • Sustainable Materials — we design our packaging with end of life in mind, prioritizing reusable packs and sustainable materials to drive cost and waste reductions for EMC and our customers.
  • Outbound Sustainable Packaging Scorecard — we measure and manage progress toward our goals for right-sizing and sustainable material use in our high-volume customer-facing packs.

Sustainable Packaging Scorecard: 2015 Performance and 2020 Goals

EMC implemented the outbound sustainable packaging scorecard in 2014. This scorecard establishes target ratios between pack and product weight, and preferred percentages for renewable, recyclable and biodegradable content. Our intention is to make sure that we limit the use of excess material wherever possible and reduce the impact of our packs at the end of their life. We have set a target to optimize 95 percent of our high-volume customer-facing packs for sustainable design by 2020.

Score Value 1 2 3
Renewable1 /Recyclable2 /Biodegradable content by weight 75% 90% 99+%
Ratio of pack weight to final product ship weight 30% 20% 10%

Caption: Outbound Sustainable Packaging Scorecard Criteria & Specifications

1 By “renewable,” we mean made from majority recycled or biologically derived content, by weight.

2 By “recyclable,” we mean recyclable at curbside or as part of consumer-accessible waste management infrastructure in a majority of markets in which we do business.

How the Outbound Sustainable Packaging Scorecard Works

A pack can receive between 0 and 6 points. This number is a composite score based on the sustainable material content and right sizing criteria identified in the scorecard. Packs with a score of 2 or less become candidates for redesign.

The sustainable packaging scorecard is applied to customer-facing packs that we purchase in volumes greater than 1,000 units per year. EMC’s overall performance is calculated by weighting the sustainability performance of each pack by its annual volume. In 2015, 77 percent of our packs were considered optimized for sustainable materials and/or right sizing. The following graph represents the breakdown by score of our high-volume packs purchased during 2015.

Sustainable Packaging Program Developments in 2015

In 2015, we shared the scorecard methodology with our packaging suppliers to increase transparency and drive the optimization of all new packaging designs. Proposed packs are now scored proactively during the design phase.

Also during 2015, we developed a multi-criteria tool to help prioritize actions for non-optimized packaging. The criteria include the scorecard assessment plus pack cost, annual volume and presence of non-preferred materials. Use of this tool showed that many of these non-optimized packs were used by our reverse logistics (when a product is returned to EMC at the end of its useful life). This insight enabled us to generate internal awareness about packaging reuse, while identifying opportunities to reuse inbound packaging for reverse logistics.

We also began standardizing practices among packaging suppliers participating in a packaging reuse credits initiative we have had in place for several years. In this initiative, our logistics carriers return select packaging to EMC after the customer has unpacked the product. Our packaging suppliers are able to extend the life of that packaging by refurbishing the packaging components that can be reused and properly recycling those that cannot, crediting EMC for the parts that are reused. Through this program we have been able to reduce our reliance on virgin materials and generate important savings.

Finding and qualifying new sustainable packaging materials that are effective for our applications poses many challenges. In 2015, we explored new packaging produced from 100 percent molded pulp made out of recycled cardboard from our manufacturing plants. It did not prove to be financially viable, but we will continue to explore molded pulp for different applications. In addition, we have yet to identify suitable substitutes for foams, electro static discharge (ESD) bags, or other less sustainable materials that meet our requirements and are effective for all our applications. However, we believe our systematic approach is leading us to more sustainable packaging alternatives overall.

Extending our collaboration more broadly, we have continued our engagement with the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA), where we serve as a board member of ISTA’s Sustainability Solutions Division. The goal of this division is to promote sustainability expertise in the discussion of transportation packaging.

Maturing our strategy

In the second half of 2015, we developed a strategic framework to better align product and packaging lifecycles. Our goal is to boost packaging optimization throughout the entire product lifecycle—including material sourcing, distribution and end of life— that will result in environmental and cost savings. Through these sustainable packaging efforts, supported by a cross-functional team, we seek to promote innovation across the supply chain and gain greater control over the total cost of packaging.

Our focus in 2016

As part of the newly-developed strategic framework, we will implement a system to identify, manage, track and report on the cumulative benefits realized through the optimization of inbound packaging. We will also launch an annual Packaging Conference to bring together packaging and part suppliers; raise awareness of our program, approach and goals; and enhance collaboration and innovation.

Also in 2016, we plan to further refine and improve EMC’s sustainable packaging scorecard methodology. This includes developing a roadmap to leverage lifecycle assessment (LCA) data and results to establish an internal environmental packaging benchmark. In addition, we will continue working closely with our packaging suppliers to build their capabilities so they can improve their sustainable packaging performance, and evaluate how the scorecard methodology can be expanded to cover inbound packaging.

Case Study: Improving and Reusing Inbound Packaging

In 2015, we collaborated with a tier 2 supplier to redesign the packaging for two of our highest-volume servers. These servers were being shipped in individual packs from tier 2 to tier 1 suppliers, and then to EMC in the same packaging. This presented a major opportunity to transition from a single to a bulk pack design that could be reused throughout different nodes of the supply chain. We engaged one of our packaging suppliers to design, test and qualify an optimized pack that saved EMC more than $2 million in packaging costs annually and reduced the sustainability impact of the packaging by 333 MT CO2e.

Once the new bulk pack was implemented, we realized these packs could be reused in our reverse logistics operations as well. Until then, reverse logistics was packaging these servers individually for return to the vendor. Now, the manufacturing team sends the empty inbound bulk pack to our reverse logistics team for reuse rather than recycling it. This new process reduced the amount of time that is spent packing each server, saved EMC $180,000 annually, and reduced the environmental impact of this process by 24 MT CO2e.