Sustainable materials, better bottom line

How did HP cut costs without cutting corners? By turning to an environmentally conscious packaging solution from Billerud.

Billerud helped HP achieve sustainability gains and cost savings with its notebook packaging — and won a Green Supply Chain Award

Each year, HP produces nearly 40 million notebooks in China. A large proportion are shipped to the U.S. and European markets via increasingly costly airfreight. To protect its notebooks in transit, HP wanted a sustainable packaging solution that would keep costs in check. HP also wanted help in reaching one of the ambitious goals created as part of its Sustainable Impact strategy — ensuring that all paper-based product packaging be derived from certified and recycled sources by 2020.

The problem HP faced was that its existing locally sourced packaging was expensive; mill closures and restrictions on imported recycled fibers had caused paper costs in China to soar in recent years. HP was committed to using environmentally friendly packaging, but one of the drawbacks of recycled fibers is that the paper itself is much weaker than paper made from virgin fibers — particularly in conditions of up to 90 percent humidity.

To address this challenge, HP partnered with Billerud. The joint team studied the box design, material usage and production processes; investigated some creative alternatives; and identified ways to optimize the box design and transform HP’s purchasing process for paper and boxes. After comparing various options, HP chose to keep the existing outside liner of the corrugated box material and replace the fluting and inside liner with virgin fiber from Billerud.

Stronger Virgin Fibers Reduce Carbon Footprint

All Billerud fibers are sourced from responsibly managed forests that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and the strength of these virgin fibers means less material is needed to create a sturdy box (29 percent less material, in this case). The box also weighs less — resulting in lower shipping costs and reduced emissions from transportation.

The old packaging weighed 347 grams per box. Replacing the fluting and inside liner with lighter and stronger Billerud materials reduced the weight of each shipping box by 62 grams. Over a 12-month period, this lighter weight decreased the total fiber usage by almost 2,500 metric tons.

The new packaging also significantly improved HP’s carbon footprint. The reduced material use and transport weight translated to nearly 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide not being emitted into the air, which is the equivalent of taking more than 1,000 cars off the road.

A Win for the Planet and the Bottom Line

The Billerud partnership created a packaging solution that successfully addressed the complex and sometimes competing requirements of product protection, environmental impact, customer expectations and cost.

While the higher-quality packaging material itself costs roughly the same as the previous boxes, the new solution does have an economic as well as an environmental benefit: reducing the boxes’ weight by 18 percent results in airfreight cost savings of $3 million to $5 million annually.

HP welcomed the sustainability and business benefits. “At HP we are committed to protecting the planet by reducing environmental impacts in our operations and with the products we offer our customers,” says Erik Troelsen, HP’s director of packaging design and procurement. 

Working with Billerud has enabled us to offer a notebook box that weighs less, reduces our global carbon footprint and lowers costs, while protecting our products during shipment. This partnership supports our efforts to develop products, as well as the packaging used to ship them, that are more sustainable for our company and our customers.
Erik Troelsen, HP’s director of packaging design and procurement


HP isn’t alone in acknowledging the value of the project. Billerud’s work with HP was recently recognized with a Green Supply Chain Award from Supply & Demand Chain Executive.


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