Skip to main content
Blog Stories, Sustainability News – March 10, 2021

Defining Sustainability for the Future Through Balance

When I discuss sustainability with anyone, we usually pretty quickly get to the question: Do we share a common understanding of the word “sustainability”? It’s an important question to ask, because the notion is often far too narrow. Sustainability is not purely a “green” measure, and the terms “green” and “sustainable” are not proxies for one another. There’s more to it.

The global challenges posed by the likes of climate change, socio-economic disparities, and social justice issues—all exacerbated by COVID 19—are pressing reminders that we must constantly examine our approach. In 2020, we took a deep look at our organization, O-I Glass, a company with a strong heritage and among the global leaders in glass packaging. That exercise led us to take bold action in how we define and measure sustainability at O-I. Our sustainability goals, aspirations and approach have evolved.

Today at O-I, we are convinced the path to a sustainable organization is about finding balance across our ecosystem. We now communicate that our sustainability leadership, long built on our values and behaviors, and driven by our processes, products, and our people, depends on striking the balance of the needs of other people, organizations, the planet, and our collective prosperity. The ecosystem involves our suppliers, our customers, our employees, and the communities where we work and live. Our aspiration is to create an organization designed for the long term—one that finds strength, resiliency, and coexistence precisely because it constantly seeks and finds this balance.

While achieving environmental goals to reduce, reuse, and recycle are necessary for the welfare of our planet, they alone are not sufficient to achieve the sustainability ambitions of the global community—or those of O-I. This is why O-I is reimagining and reinventing the business model for glass packaging. We see a future where the innate circularity of glass meets O-I’s innovations to change how glass is made and sold.

This sustainable future of glass involves not just the use of cleaner gas-oxygen fuels and improved hybrid technology in traditional furnaces, but also O-I’s revolutionary MAGMA melting technology. It includes a manufacturing process that has on-off technology to optimize the use of energy and efficiency. One that can be co-located at manufacturing and filling sites, reducing logistics impact and capitalizing on the potential to co-use and co-reuse energy, waste heat, water, and other resources. One that can produce breakthrough lightweight containers and capitalize on O-I’s 3D printing technology.

The sustainability balance we seek requires integrated cooperation among stakeholders around shared goals and collaborative changes in what we do and how we do it. Our holistic sustainability strategy, therefore, involves a focus on translating our goals into actionable local objectives and then using innovation and partnerships with our customers, suppliers, and communities to achieve our overlapping objectives.

You can see why the question, “Do we share a common understanding of the word ‘sustainability?’” is so important. We encourage you to visit us online to see how O-I Glass is evolving our approach to sustainability. Even though the roadmap to balance may change with time or circumstances, the path to sustainability always involves vision, transformation, and innovation.

Randy Burns is O-I’s Chief Sustainability and Corporate Affairs Officer. For 25 years he’s worked at the intersection of advocacy, law, and policy.
Randolph Burns