Jerome Peribere, CEO of Sealed Air, explains at Fortune's Brainstorm E conference in Austin, Texas.
When word spread that the new iteration of Bubble Wrap was losing its iconic loud pop, the backlash was not so quiet.
“I got a huge number of emails, text, and letters from people all around the world saying you can’t do that,” said Jerome Peribere, president and CEO of Sealed Air, at Fortune’s Brainstorm E conference in Austin, Texas on Tuesday. Sealed Air has manufactured the well-known packaging material since 1960.
But the reason behind the change may outweigh the loss of bubble-popping for humankind: the environment. Sealed Air’s customers would now inflate the new type of protective material on site rather than receive it inflated. One delivery truck’s worth of the new Bubble Wrap is equivalent to 47 trucks of the old, inflated kind. That kind of reduction in carbon emissions is a big deal for the environment.
The shift is part of Peribere’s broader strategy to rebrand Sealed Air as a company centered on sustainability. “This planet is choking, and we don’t have the sense of urgency,” he said at Brainstorm E. In the company’s food division, for example, better packaging can help extend shelf life. In its unit focused on cleaning, sanitation, and hygiene, its products can extend the shelf life of linen by about a third. “We don’t sell laundry products,” he says. “We sell shelf-life extension.”
The company can even cut down on waste in its legacy division—packaging. Peribere noted that $9 billion worth of good are broken or damaged in transit. And inefficient packaging can be an energy suck. When tiny items get packed in massive boxes, companies waste fuel by essentially transporting air.
“Sustainability has to be tied with product and solution performance and cost competitiveness,” he said.
To hear how Walmart approaches sustainability, watch this video from Brainstorm E: