Aug. 7 2012 11:28 AM

Quality is well-known as being highly effective with ISO 9001; the world's ecology is also being improved rapidly with ISO 14001 boasting over 230,000 corporate members in 159 countries. The International Organization for Standards has itself grown through success to become a major business and government influencer.

The supply chain has become a strong advocate for sustainability and carbon offset products. With the world's population now at seven billion, resources are being consumed at an ever-expanding rate. This spring is being defined as the warmest in recorded history for our planet because of greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most noted contributor to the problem, largely caused by our consumption of fossil fuels. However, another gas, methane (CH4), might hold an even bigger impact as it relates to global warming. Scientists report Methane holds a 25X impact related to warming.

I recently talked with Spencer Brody, Founder and President of Biolithe, after his firm was awarded a U.S. Patent for their solution that reduces the creation of dirty methane from packaging while it is decomposing in its final resting place. Methane is the most abundant organic compound on earth, but the kind of methane produced by wood fibers in packaging is called dirty because of the heat trapping contaminants released into the atmosphere during decomposition. Biolithe's patent actually manages natural bacteria to eat in a specific way to reduce dirty methane before it becomes a greenhouse gas. Bacteria have been harnessed previously to help the environment; for instance, at the huge oil spill that occurred in Alaska after the Valdez was ripped open. Spencer and his team have been working on this solution for five years and this article is the first time it is being discussed on a national/international basis in the open press.

The Sustainability Packaging Coalition welcomed Biolithe as a new member this spring in Toronto by further endorsing a thesis authored at Rutgers University in their microbiology department and a validation of Life Cycle Analysis from Yale University. The Sustainability Coalition is all about protecting the environment on a sustainable basis with complete transparency.

AT&T and the United Way have both used the solution to produce brochures given to customers at marquis events like the AT&T Pebble Beach National ProAm.

"Reuse, Reduce and Recycle are the best methods of naturally managing product packaging and boxes used to protect merchandise in the transportation cycle," Spencer says. "We are an environmentally friendly company, and adding a low-cost solution in a powder or liquid format into the paper-mix ensures the limitation of dirty methane and eliminates the hydrogen sulfide odor at the end of the life cycle. This is a classic demonstration of the sum being greater than the parts." The component products used to make Biolithe are an FDA-approved food additive that is integrated into the composition of packaging or adhesives when manufactured. It is truly a cradle-to-grave product being added at inception and going to work at the end of the packaging's usefulness.

Global corporations with large consumer footprints spend over $120 billion in packaging each year. Top companies are estimated to spend $60 billion this year on true sustainability; these same companies are avoiding greenwashing (pretending to solve environmental problems through marketing) like the plague. There are strong economic incentives to true sustainability with a growing group of companies, consumers, and governments wholly endorsing innovative solutions that are sustainable. At the end of the day, the power of brands is reinforced and made more powerful if it is completely sustainable.

Controlling bacteria in a way that benefits us all is really quite remarkable. The supply chain should have a balanced approach that pays respect to the economy and the environment. Our great grandchildren in a century (2112) are depending on us to get this right.

Rob Shirley is President of ExpresShip, a strategic partner in the global supply chain. Contact him at