2023 APCO Award Winner Spotlight - Brother International Australia

APCO’s SPGs Implementation Award celebrates the organisations that have demonstrated the successful integration of the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs) into their packaging and businesses practices.

Brother International Australia (BIA), a company that specialises in distributing products for print, imaging, labelling, and sewing markets, adhere to strict packaging standards given the nature of their products and the distances the products must travel without becoming damaged.

Last year, BIA took home the SPGs implementation award after leveraging its principles to phase out expanded polyethylene (EPE) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) from its packaging materials.

The result was the removal of 5,711 cubic meters of EPE/EPS from April 2022 to March 2023, the equivalent of 2.3 Olympic-sized swimming pools.


Implementation of the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs)


APCO’s Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs) provide 10 Sustainable Packaging Principles that businesses can integrate within their packaging through design and procurement practices. BIA focused on adopting two key principles of the SPGs:


Principle 1: Design for Recovery


The first principle, ‘Design for Recovery’, refers to the availability of systems for reuse, recycling, composting or energy recovery.  It drove BIA to create packaging with a clear recovery in mind, adhering to the national target of 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging by 2025. BIA ensured its’ designs facilitated easy end-of-life recovery, aligning with recycling goals.


Principle 5: Use Recycled Materials


Principle 5: ‘Use Recycled Materials’ aims to optimise the amount of recycled content in packaging. BIA actively sought out recycled materials to replace its EPE/ EPS packaging, which included the use of 100% recycled pulp, and 70% recycled cardboard.


These changes extended across Brother-branded hardware for Printing and Sewing and Craft products, in excess of 270 SKUs. BIA is actively working on the development of non-EPE/EPS packaging alternatives for the remaining SKUs.


BIA was the first sales country within Brother’s global business to implement such significant change.

While the SPGs provided valuable guidance, adapting the principles into practical application required extensive planning and testing. This included:


Packaging design: BIA had to first consider the role packaging in transporting and protecting its products. The switch to paper packaging, which has weaknesses when considering the effects of moisture absorption, first required testing of the transport environment from its factory in Japan to Australia, to analyse the conditions of temperature and humidity. BIA also had to satisfy cushioning performance, from light products of several hundred grams to heavy products of more than 30 kg. This involved repeating evaluations and prototyping and utilising Brother's unique analysis technology.

Packaging size: Changing internal packaging from EPE/EPS while maintaining the same size cartons was a significant challenge. This required careful redesign to accommodate new materials without increasing packaging dimensions.

Sourcing new packaging materials: Brother procurement teams successfully sourced cardboard and pulp from vendors local to its manufacturing facilities and adjusted product lines to support this pioneering packaging change.

Collaboration: This initiative was a collaborative effort involving teams in Australia and BIA’s parent company in Japan. In September 2019, BIA formed a working group with the participation of related departments including Development, Procurement, Manufacturing, Quality management and Sales in Japan. Executive management in both Australia and Japan played pivotal roles in driving the change process and the way of thinking. Brother's Research and Development, Design, and Engineering teams in Japan meticulously planned the new internal packaging that met strict quality protocol designed to protect products during transportation (internationally and locally) while being careful not to increase the size of the outer carton cases.


Click here to find out more about Brother International Australia and its sustainability journey.