To lead the way in sustainability

Our goal is 'Redefining Packaging for a Changing World' by bringing our customers into the circular economy using recyclable materials responsibly in our circular business.

In 2023/24, we continued to embed our refreshed Now & Next Sustainability Strategy. We introduced a new sustainability governance framework comprising expert horizontal thematic Steering Committees, Working Groups and Project teams to drive the delivery of our targets forward. In addition to achieving our target to replace one billion pieces of plastic, we furthered our projects to protect and regenerate nature and strengthened our human rights due diligence

Our Now & Next Sustainability Strategy centres on four strategic pillars: Circularity, Carbon, People & Communities, and Nature. We have set ambitious targets to transition towards a low-carbon, circular economy that benefits people, nature, and business. We are confident in achieving our sustainability goals by prioritising action on the world's current challenges and keeping an eye on the future. 


We are designing out waste and pollution through circular design and helping our customers replace, reduce or avoid plastic with alternative fibre-based solutions. We are keeping materials in circulation by manufacturing 100% recyclable or reusable packaging and we are working towards launching up to five new innovative reusable packaging pilots by 2025. We optimise fibre for individual supply chains so that our packaging is tailored to our customers’ unique supply chain conditions. Our long-term ambition is for all our packaging to be recycled or reused and to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2030.


In 2023/24, we achieved our target to replace one billion pieces of plastic with alternative fibre-based solutions 16 months in advance of our 2025 target, with over 1.2 billion replaced, avoided or removed since 2020/21. We maintained our target to manufacture 100% recyclable or reusable packaging and we continued to investigate corrugated packaging reuse pilots.

We optimised fibre for individual supply chains in 90% of our new packaging solutions (2022/23: 64%) at 74 of our packaging plants where we measure the board performance, driving improvements to the packaging’s dimensions, shape and materials used that can be multiplied over thousands of units.

We achieved a 19%reduction in waste to landfill compared to last year, sending 165,840 tonnes of waste to landfill (2022/23: 204,637 tonnes). This was predominantly as a result of exceptional events in the previous year.

The image shows the innovative packaging solution of DS Smith  - Lift Up. There are four six-packs behind each other, including CocaCola, Fanta, Sprite and Mezzo Mix. Every package has a Lift Up.
DS Smith and Coca-Cola HBC share a strong vision for innovative packaging solutions designed to be 100% recyclable and to use the least amount of material needed.


We are working towards decarbonising our business and value chain to meet our 1.5°C science-based target, which has been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). By 2030, reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 46% compared to 2019 and reach Net Zero GHG emissions by 2050. We are encouraging 100% of our strategic suppliers to set their own science-based targets by 2027.


In 2023/24, GHG emissions across all three scopes totalled 6,985,269 tonnes CO2e (2022/23: 7,391,418 tonnes CO2e), a 5% reduction compared to last year and 19% compared to the base year (2019/20: 8,645,693 tonnes CO2e).

A 4% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 (market-based) compared to last year was primarily a result of changes made in preparation for the new waste-to-energy facility at Aschaffenburg (c. 14,000 tonnes CO2e), alongside other smaller projects, and a strengthened focus on energy efficiency initiatives (c. 27,000 tonnes CO2e).

A 6% reduction in Scope 3 was primarily the result of methodology improvement, in particular using updated emission factors from the CDP supply chain programme to begin capturing supplier emissions. In contrast to last year, changes in production volumes did not have a significant impact, other than the closure of Pazardzhik (Trakia) mill and several other non-core operations resulting in a reduction of c. 50,000 tonnes CO2e.

Our organic investment programme continued, with upgrades to corrugators, boilers and LED lighting contributing reductions. Several major projects progressed, including the transition from coal to biomass at Rouen, anticipated to contribute a 99,000 tonne CO2e reduction, and other new projects were announced, including upgraded machinery at Ghimbav and Columbia packaging plants, with energy savings created through steam optimisation and energy recovery technologies.

We continued to develop our roadmap, assessing future projects and optimising the plan for best cost solutions. We progressed our energy efficiency efforts and ISO 50001:2018 certification, with the most energy-intensive plants undertaking ‘deep dives’ to investigate savings opportunities.

We estimate that in 2023/24, c. 42% of our purchased goods and services emissions were from suppliers who have set, or are in the process of setting, a science-based target (2022/23: 32%).

People & Communities 

We are committed to reducing the accident frequency rate (AFR) each year and improving the diversity of our workforce to reflect the communities in which we operate. This includes all leadership teams completing inclusivity workshops for 2025 and by 2030, increasing gender diversity to 40% female representation in senior leadership, improving gender and ethnic diversity across our overall workforce year-on-year and to set an aspiration for other protected characteristics by 2030. We continue to strengthen our human rights due diligence.

We are playing an active role in our local communities and are equipping our people to lead the transition to a circular economy.


In 2023/24, we achieved our target for 100% of our in-scope (manufacturing) sites to complete the Sedex Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), enabling the identification of opportunities to strengthen our human rights due diligence. We engaged 76% of our people on the circular economy (2022/23: 57%) and contributed to our 9.8 million cumulative total wider engagement figure since 2020/21 (2022/23: 8.4 million), engaging the public on the circular economy and circular lifestyles.

For the fifth year running, 100% of the sites included in our Community Programme (those with greater than 50 full time employees) had undertaken community activities aligned to our strategic themes of biodiversity, design and education. The accident frequency rate reduced to a new record low of 1.65 (2022/23: 1.82) and inclusive leadership workshops were completed by 25% of our managers (new target). Our gender diversity for women in senior leadership positions was 31.1% (2022/23: 34.5%).


 We are protecting nature by measuring and improving biodiversity in our own forests, in addition to implementing biodiversity programmes at our paper mills. Our ambition is to elevate our nature-related commitments by taking a science-based approach to regenerate nature. We have set a new target to develop water management and water scarcity plans for 100% of our paper mills and packaging plants by 2025. We are reducing the water withdrawal per tonne of production for the water used in our own process by 10% by 2030 for our paper mills located in regions at risk of water stress.


In 2023/24, 14 of our paper mills (2022/23: 13) continued to develop their biodiversity programmes, which include multi-year initiatives with actions to improve local biodiversity. 

For example, Dueñas mill recently supported biodiversity and landscape recovery in the local community through planting trees that are native to the area, improving natural habitats for local wildlife. 

As part of their Biodiversity Programme, our Dueñas Paper Mill in Spain recently supported biodiversity and landscape recovery in the local community through planting trees that are native to the area.
Our Dueñas Paper Mill in Spain recently supported biodiversity and landscape recovery in the local community through planting trees that are native to the area.

We began a new project to assess our dependencies on nature as one of the first steps to setting targets to regenerate nature, taking a science-based approach, with reference to the Taskforce on Nature related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) recommendations. This includes an assessment of our supply chain, direct operations and a downstream product screening assessment, comprehensively locating the interfaces with nature, and prioritising sensitive locations.

Alongside this project, as part of our EU Deforestation-Free Regulation (EUDR) preparation, we began screening exercises, a risk assessment and the development of a deforestation policy to meet the upcoming EUDR requirements.

In 2023/24, 10% of our in-scope paper mills and packaging plants developed water management plans (a new target), which includes the identification of water reduction opportunities and awareness-raising and training on water conservation. Water abstracted for use in own process per tonne of production decreased by 10% compared to last year to 7.52m3/t nsp (2022/23: 8.4m3/t nsp), driven by the closure of Trakia mill during the period and changes to the energy set up at Aschaffenburg mill which involves exporting water withdrawn to a third party DS Smith Sustainability Report 2024 describes the progress made towards our Now & Next targets in greater detail.


The Board and the Audit Committee maintain oversight of climate-related risks and opportunities when reviewing and guiding strategy, budgets and business plans. Annual updates on risk assessments, mitigation and progress are reviewed by the Board, and the Board makes significant strategic decisions, for example, the adoption of the science-based target.

The Board considers any trade-offs associated with climate-related risks and opportunities by evaluating climate matters as part of setting the strategic direction of the Group, strategy implementation and resourcing and leadership. The terms of reference of the Audit Committee document the Committee responsibilities. These were updated to incorporate TCFD disclosures last year.

Upon appointment to the Board, Directors undertake an induction programme, receiving a broad range of information about the Group, including information about sustainability and climate-related matters, tailored to their previous experience. Directors are given training and receive presentations to keep their knowledge current, including on TCFD and transition planning, and take responsibility for identifying and satisfying their own specific training requirements.

The Board and its Committees, members of whom have relevant ESG and sustainability experience, are updated on climate-related issues at a minimum annually. This includes the progress of our Now & Next Sustainability Strategy and other items that involve climate-related issues, such as the Corporate Plan, principal risks and uncertainties, and remuneration. The Audit Committee is engaged on the assurance of climate-related metrics and developments in ESG reporting.

Members of the Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainability (HSES) Committee, chaired by the Group Chief Executive, assess and manage climate-related risks and opportunities. This Committee meets monthly, having met 12 times during 2023/24 to discuss, amongst other topics:

  • GHG emissions forecasts.
  • Plans to deliver the science-based target.
  • Progress on climate-related opportunities, such as plastic replacement.

Climate-related risks are monitored as part of our standard operating procedures to ensure that appropriate mitigation is in place and are regularly reviewed by management. Management is supported by the Carbon, Water and Waste Steering Committee, which is the primary thematic steering committee handling climate-related matters, including the delivery of the science-based target.

Comprising leaders from across the business, the Committee maintains a portfolio of projects to allocate resources, coordinate delivery and propose solutions to critical trade-offs related to addressing climate-related risks and opportunities. These Committees draw on subject matter experts from Risk and Insurance, Strategy, Sustainability, Finance and Procurement teams. They report progress updates and escalate decisions to executive management on an ongoing basis.

Project deployment and the maintenance of Net Zero roadmaps are carried out by a technical sustainability delivery team. This team is responsible for driving carbon/energy, water and waste reduction and coordinating, through the steering committee, the design, planning and implementation of our commitment to reach Net Zero.

Climate-related metrics are discussed at least monthly by management teams. Senior management teams review within year performance, forecasts and longer-term progress against our targets, in addition to challenges, trends and opportunities for addressing climate-related issues monthly, and this is monitored by the HSES Committee on a quarterly basis, with progress presented to the Board annually.

Alignment with international frameworks  

We respect several international frameworks that are relevant to corporate responsibility and ethical business conduct, including:

  • United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO) Eight Fundamental Conventions.
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
  • United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).
  • United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For information on our sustainability performance, policies and procedures, please refer to our Sustainability Report.