Dennis Siepmann, Head of Sustainability, ACTEGA, and His Journey to Sustainability

Could you please tell us about yourself and your journey at ACTEGA? What inspired you to pursue a career in sustainability?

I have been working at ACTEGA for over 12 years and during this time I have had the opportunity to work in various roles across sales, marketing, and product development. My time at ACTEGA has allowed me to acquire a deep understanding of the company globally and has given me insights into the different functions of the company, the people who make it work, and the complexities of different sites and businesses.

In August last year, I took the role of global head of sustainability, a role that I am very passionate about. In this function, my focus is on bringing our sustainability approach into the market and working closely with customers, suppliers and our R&D team to enhance our sustainability efforts. We want to accelerate our progress, and we have already taken bold actions and proactive steps to do so. Examples include analyzing the current product portfolio from a sustainability perspective or launching initial initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of materials.

I am proud to say that I work with a fantastic team of colleagues, and we are working together to make a positive impact not only within our company, but also in the wider community. At ACTEGA, we are committed to making a tangible difference towards creating a more sustainable world. It's an exciting time to be in this role, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds!

What does sustainability mean to you both from individual and business perspective?

Sustainability, to me, means being mindful of our impact on the environment and taking responsible actions to reduce waste and inefficiency. As a parent of three, it is a personal priority of mine to ensure that we can leave a positive legacy for our children's future. This belief also carries over into my professional life at ACTEGA, where we are an integral part of the packaging industry. While there has been increased scrutiny placed on the sector due to the environmental impact of plastic and packaging in general, it's essential to recognize that these are vital for providing durability and extended shelf life to products. Our role is to make sure that packaging materials are used in the most efficient way and to contribute to this with our coatings, printing inks, varnishes and compounds.

One example: As part of the SVELON® family, we offer low-gauge compounds whose special properties enable our customers to produce crown corks with a thickness of up to 0.18 mm, i.e. to reduce the metal thickness - without compromising the performance of the crowns. This results in material savings, a lower carbon footprint and - as the volume of packaging material is reduced - less packaging waste.

Generally speaking: Our aim is to strike the right balance between preserving our planet and ensuring that businesses remain profitable. Can you tell us, what are the significant opportunities for businesses in terms of sustainability?

Absolutely. In the world of sustainability, challenges should always be viewed as opportunities. This approach not only makes companies more innovative and future-focused, but it also has a positive impact on their resilience in the long run. One of the top agenda points in our industry has been recyclability. Whether it is the challenges of sorting and recycling multi-layer films, the trend towards mono-materials or the increase in paper-based packaging, we are committed to meeting the current needs. Recognizing the importance of recycling as an integral part of our sustainability program has led us to develop innovative solutions and processes, for example, to contribute to end products that can be recycled with minimal impact on the recycling process.

What factors are most pressing in terms of sustainability for the Packaging Industry?

As environmental concerns become increasingly mainstream, we see that businesses across all industries are looking for ways to reduce their environmental footprints. Our industry is no exception. If anything, it has proven to be a powerful example of the mobilization behind climate change solutions. Especially when it comes to food and beverage products, plastics will remain integral to the packaging industry for the foreseeable future. It's important to develop innovative solutions to limit plastic waste; this is exactly what the whole industry is working on.

For example, multi-layer substrates have typically been used as a barrier for packaging. However, the poor recyclability of these materials is a major drawback. The above-mentioned substrates are increasingly falling into disrepute and are subject to ever more comprehensive regulations. At the same time, the legal requirements for recycling or disposing of such production materials pose a major challenge for many processing companies. As a sustainable alternative, we have developed ACTGreen® Barrier Coatings, which include both water-based barrier coatings and aqueous TPE dispersions as coating or binder systems for various applications and end uses. These products are demonstrably sustainable, meeting upcoming regulatory requirements related to packaging waste and recyclability.

You see, it's essential to recognize that the packaging industry operates within a complex landscape – it is subject to the highest number of regulatory measures in the world. That covers an array of elements such as packaging specifications, recyclability, biodegradability, expected primary use, labelling and traceability, raw-materials sourcing, as well as disposal. Furthermore, this complexity is compounded by the fact that focus and approaches often vary significantly at regional and country/state levels. Overall, all these make sustainability a challenging but essential task in our industry.

Can you tell us about ACTEGA’s sustainable initiatives?

As you know, ACTEGA is a division of the internationally operating specialty chemicals group ALTANA and specializes in the production of specialty coatings, inks, adhesives and sealing compounds for the printing and packaging industry. We continuously focus on developing sustainability-driven solutions and products targeting downstream stages of the value chain – that are able to make the world a little bluer.

We are advocates of the circular economy, and we’re contributing in the industry to progress towards changing the current linear production system into a regenerative and restorative one. Again, water-based ACTGreen® Barrier Coatings are a great example here. ACTGreen® Sustainable Compounds are another example. These PVC-free and plasticizer-free sealing compounds comprise blends of advanced food-compliant materials to ensure no migration of harmful substances from the packaging into the food it protects.

ACTEGA’s development process is characterized by a combination of radical innovation and optimization of existing approaches or products, allowing us to create a well-balanced portfolio. ACTEGA is also revolutionizing approaches with disruptive technologies like ECOLEAF and Signite, pushing boundaries, and providing a real-world solution for today's environmental issues – providing a balance between ecological preservation and economic benefit.

In addition to offering solutions and products that are kind to the environment, ACTEGA has also taken meaningful steps to reduce its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. The progress made in this endeavor demonstrated itself with results: CO2 emissions have been reduced by over 70% for the whole ACTEGA group in the last 5 years. Furthermore, water consumption was reduced by over 45%. In 2019, ACTEGA joined other ALTANA companies in sourcing 100% of its energy from renewable sources. Additional efforts are put in place to produce energy from solar sources at individual sites, for example in Vigo, Spain or soon at our site in Bremen, Germany.

Also, local undertakings are considered and supported at ACTEGA: Under our ‘Let’s ACT!’ campaign, our employees work together to minimize their local environmental impact. A prime example of this is ACTEGA’s site in Lehrte, Germany. Undertaken by two team members, six bee colonies are being nurtured with a mission toward promoting biodiversity across the site - an inspiring demonstration of commitment towards nature conservation.

What’s your vision for ACTEGA’s sustainability initiatives? What’s next on ACTEGA’s sustainability agenda?

I believe that taking a holistic approach to sustainability is the key to creating a better world for all. By implementing more sustainable practices, we are not only doing the right thing but also staying competitive in an ever-changing market.

While we've already taken steps to reduce our carbon footprint at the operational level, we recognize that becoming more sustainable at the product level is equally important. Our focus is on providing more transparency and data-driven sustainability benefits of our products by investigating the carbon footprint of the solutions we provide. This is part of an ongoing project to improve data availability and takes efforts not just from us but also from our suppliers and partners.

We are also currently exploring materials that can provide sustainability benefits, like bio-based materials for some of our products, to replace petrol-based materials and reduce our overall carbon footprint.

What should be considered by the industry players to achieve true sustainability in the packaging sector?

Achieving true sustainability in the packaging industry involves all actors from across the public, private and civic sectors and requires systemic change. Therefore, the ACTEGA team has become a member of the 4evergreen alliance, working with its stakeholders across the value chain toward optimizing fibre-based packaging's circularity and climate performance. We embrace the value of an interconnected network that runs the entire length of our supply chain, from raw material suppliers to brand owners. By creating an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, we can stay in tune with customer needs and anticipate changing trends while working for a sustainable packaging industry.

Attending industry shows is always valuable - it provides insight into current problems and exciting solutions. Having just been to Interpack and Metpack, I noticed there are varied interpretations of 'sustainability' within the packaging industry. To make progress, there needs to be a comprehensive understanding of the term and its implications. It was evident that regulation and reporting are currently driving nearly every player in the industry, with German LkSG still a hot topic. In addition, the implementation of the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) are binding resources for companies of all sizes. However, it was encouraging to see that more packaging and raw materials suppliers are finishing their homework on Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) calculation, enabling them to provide tangible data on PCF for various packaging types, which empowers producers to make data-driven and fact-based decisions on sustainability – wasn’t possible a few years ago. Another significant discussion was the circular economy and how companies need to collaborate along the value chain to close the loop. Moving towards circularity cannot happen in silos and requires all stakeholders involved.

Learn more about sustainability at ACTEGA and become familiar with our initiatives and activities.