Asahi Group Holdings has announced an environmental target for the year 2050, as part of programs by the beverage manufacturer to more directly address marine plastic issues in product packaging.

Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. announced its “Asahi Group Environmental Vision 2050” in February 2019, setting numerical targets and definite goals for zero CO2 emissions, use of sustainable resources, and creation of environmental value. The goal of achieving zero CO2 emissions for all business activities by 2050 was previously announced in April 2018.

The new announcement covers the use of 100% sustainable resources, including agricultural materials, containers and packaging, and water. The firm will continue to reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging, recognizing that waste plastic is a major cause of marine plastic pollution.

President and Chief operating officer Akiyoshi Koji explained that plastic-related problems are occurring globally, and the firm will continue to advance initiatives including label-less designs and recyclable bottles, and investigate the use of biomaterials.

“The core issue is container packaging”

In advance of the Environmental Vision, Asahi Soft Drinks Co., Ltd. (a group firm handling manufacture and sale of soft drinks) announced its own Containers and Packaging 2030 initiative in January 2019. According to Saiko Matsunuma, group leader, ESG Promotion Group, Corporate Communication Dept at the firm, “Among beverage manufacturers, containers and packaging are the core issue that society demands we do something about.”

The firm’s initiative calls for a reduction in plastic containers and packaging by 60%, replacing it with recycled materials or eco-friendly biomass, for example, and it is working to develop new, eco-friendly containers. Label-less bottles mark an important development, removing printed paper labels in favor of almost-naked bottles. Removing labels in this way cuts the amount of plastic used in labelling by 90%, the firm says.

The first label-less product was mineral water, marketed through the Amazon electric commerce site from May 2018. Additional label-less products such as tea and lactic drinks were added in February and March 2019. Empty bottles no longer require label removal for recycling, so “The idea really took off very quickly, and consumers agreed that label-less is what society needs these days,” says Michiko Iijima, manager, Tea and Water Business, Marketing Department 2, Marketing HQ at Asahi Soft Drinks.

Other foodstuff and household item manufacturers including Unilever and Nestlé are also intensifying their efforts to address plastic waste issues. For the Asahi Group, as it works to enhance corporate value through ESG initiatives, it is essential to continue informing the public of new programs like label-less containers, to keep up with other industry leaders.

Outline of the Asahi Group Environmental Vision 2050
(1) Climate change initiatives
  • Achieve a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the 2015 level in domestic businesses by 2030
  • Achieve zero CO2 emissions from business activities (carbon neutrality) by 2050
(2) Sustainable resource use
  • Achieve 100% sustainable procurement of agricultural raw materials, containers and packaging, and water by 2050
  • Use recycled or eco-friendly materials for 60% of its plastic containers and packaging by 2030
(3) Creation of environmental value
  • Leverage strengths in the utilization of yeast, lactic acid bacteria, and other microorganisms to nurture new product lines and innovation