Sophia Engqvist and her team have the responsibility of advancing TePe's products, a task characterised by the company's focus on sustainable solutions. It’s an area of exciting development with many things happening at once.
– We work every day to develop the product range, including packaging, towards increased sustainability and reaching the set goals. I'm proud to be part of a company where we don’t just talk but walk the walk.
One of the goals that Sophia and her team members help to achieve is TePe’s aim of becoming CO₂ neutral by 2022 in terms of products and packaging. In short, this means that the net emission of CO₂ during the product lifecycle must be zero. It will take great efforts to succeed, and there are many steps along the way. Currently, TePe is preparing the transition to a renewable sourced material produced in a mass balance method for their interdental brushes, which will reduce the product’s carbon footprint by 80%.
– We will shift to the new material in more products in 2021. Included in the interdental brush project are also new bags containing approximately 80% biobased plastic.
What happens to the product after use, i.e., the question of “end of life”, is constantly relevant. Sophia highlights this as one of the biggest challenges and emphasises that producers must give consumers the right preconditions to recycle.
– We can already see that producers’ responsibility for packaging is increasing in order to reduce waste. The manufacturer must ensure that the packaging can be reused or recycled, and I think it's only a matter of time before this concerns the products as well. So far, our thinking has been linear; items are produced, used, and eventually, they become waste. But we are moving towards more circular thinking where the last step includes the product being recycled and becoming a new product. However, this will take major system changes, and we need to stay updated with the development in the field.
Packaging has its own challenges. It has the important function to protect the product during many stages, right up to storage at home. But the fact remains that it will become waste when it has served its purpose for the consumer.
– We’re striving to find the balance between packaging that is durable but also as environmentally-friendly as possible. For example, we have ensured that all our packaging is easy for the consumer to recycle. At the same time, we are aiming for more renewable materials, says Sophia.
Environmentally-friendly packaging and products are tangible examples, but for TePe, sustainable development is more than that. It is about ensuring environmental, economic and social well-being, both today and in the future. This is considered throughout the organisation.
– At TePe, no decisions are made without sustainability in mind. It is important to remember that sustainability is about all three aspects, and we must continue to have a holistic perspective, says Sophia.
She believes that TePe's sustainability work will continue to intensify – there will always be areas of improvement and new matters to address.
– Besides, consumers increasingly expect companies to take action and operate sustainably. Eventually, consumers will likely disregard companies that don’t take their responsibility.