"Imagine that we are hosting a global, sustainable potluck—we are here to host the party."

Sustainable packaging is getting a premium makeover. Once synonymous with coarse textures and dull colors, packaging made from recycled materials is now sleek and sophisticated, thanks to advances in technology.

California-based Golden Arrow is one company driving this progress. A manufacturer with a green vision, Golden Arrow produces high-end packaging from recycled materials. Bespoke technology and zero-waste process put the company at the forefront of eco-friendly manufacturing, and these principles have garnered high-profile clients such as Apple and Google. Golden Arrow is proving that sustainability and high design are no longer mutually exclusive.

We caught up with Jenda Chen, managing director at Golden Arrow, to discuss the company’s mission and how it is shaping the future of sustainability.

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Golden Arrow

Can you tell us about the Golden Arrow packaging mission?

Golden Arrow was started back in 1984. A leader in green innovative technology, we started with one simple, great idea: to reduce the impact for our environment and people in the community. The concept is to develop green packaging solutions from renewable materials that we can offer to a variety of industries. That is where Golden Arrow anchors our vision and also where our team continues to work.

Why is sustainable packaging more important than ever before?

This is a really serious question. Look around the planet that we live in—which is 4.6 billion years old—but packaging was not invented until the past 150 years.

This is becoming a burning issue, especially in the past 50 years. Since 1950, 160 million tons of plastic packaging have been produced, coming into everywhere that we live and everywhere that we breathe. So sustainable packaging becomes mainstream—and also the most common request from the market. We believe that it is not just the prime time to find the proper technical solutions for attractive packaging for industry customers. It is also about reaching the balance of life, which is sustainable use between plastic and paper.

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Golden Arrow

Which unique Golden Arrow technologies allow you to produce high-quality, environmentally friendly packaging?

Molded fiber is one of our packaging solutions and it’s also the most critical innovation that we started eight years ago. Molded fiber is not new; the first patent related to molded fiber was back in 1903, more than 100 years ago. The unique differentiating value in Golden Arrow for our molded fiber comes down to perfecting the customizable experience, therefore leading to a variety of applications for our consumer products.

The green ingredients that we use, mainly bamboo and a byproduct of sugarcane, reduce the impact of deforestation. We’d rather use these than wood fibers, as a tree consumes many more resources—bamboo can grow up to 12 inches every month, and for sugarcane, we actually use agricultural waste rather than the virgin fiber. Our unique molded fiber solutions provide the best-in-class customizable cosmetic finishing and sustainable material resource. Also important is our in-house technical advancement.

The three major pillars that differentiate Golden Arrow are the material, the product outlook and the in-house green technology.

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Golden Arrow

Which achievements are you most proud of?

We jointly drove a press release last September with one of our customers, Apple, committing to 100% off-the-grid green sustainable energy by summer 2019. So 100% of our manufacturing process and facilities, and our office, will be all green energy, coming from the solar energies that we install in our own premises and also green energy from our certified partner in China.

Aside from Apple, Acer is one of our long-time customers, and continues to be the innovation leader in the PC and wearable product industry. Lately, we have collectively introduced a gaming notebook for innovative packaging with them, together with the new movie Avengers 3, which is a limited edition, and we’re excited to see our green packaging paired side by side with the cutting-edge consumer product out to the market.

Aside from that, we continue to provide our product solution for Fitbit, and also one of the first Google smartphones—we are also part of a packaging partnership with Google. We are not just in the consumer electronics industry—we are now gaining more and more clients from the premium product industry, such as cosmetics, beauty and food, as well as smart homes.

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Golden Arrow

Golden Arrow is driving modern, smooth packaging with a sophisticated finish. Do you think recycled packaging will draw the attention of luxury brands?

That will certainly be something that we will see very soon. Our goal long-term is to empower our technology into all different prospective solutions, according to the market requirement. We’re not here to change the world, but we’re here to provide our technical solution as a relevant option for our sustainability partners.

Imagine that we are hosting a global, sustainable potluck—we are here to host the party, and all of the different partners are presenting their dishes. What we care about is not whether my ribs are more delicious than other people’s ribs—I’m more concerned about whether we have clean food, whether we have enough food to serve all the guests, so we can continue to enjoy our lives in a more sustainable way. Our solutions will be in the premium industries, but you will gradually see them in different varieties of high, medium and low grades of different cosmetic finishings.

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What are the biggest hurdles for sustainable packaging?

When we talk about packaging solutions associated with the global sustainability goal, the biggest hurdle that remains is the price versus the plastic solution. Cost and availability are the first commercial considerations that present a hurdle. On our end, we have to work on improved quality and variety of application for this technology, so that when the volume is higher, the overall cost will be significantly reduced. Our goal, of course, will be to aim for price parity with plastic solutions.

The influence in communications and advocating global sustainability has to be more than corporate sloganeering, but also the influence of leaders like Apple, Google and HP. We have to identify big pioneers and advocates to take our solutions into the world, so that people can recognize the value of this green packaging solution.

Rather than using plastic as we are, I think those are the key obstacles ahead of us that we have to define. This is the right moment for change.

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Golden Arrow

With that in mind, what’s next for Golden Arrow?

This is a company of 34 years with more than 2,600 employees that all have one single heart. For Golden Arrow today, we want the best for our people and we want to grow to be a global company with more variety and affordability for our customers around the world.

We have a five-year strategy roadmap to go into global locations and offer our services to more diversified customers and industries. We’re calling for much more in terms of business opportunities, along with internal talent, to empower our solution for every corner of the world.

The dreams that we have are big, but the resources are quite limited. We continue to identify global partners such as Apple, who have a strong impact, and urge other industrial leaders to join this tech force. We’re hoping this transformation in our paradigm will take place faster than it is today. Looking at the past five years, just in terms of the green synergy or the impact that we can drive—in terms of the water we have recycled, or in terms of the overall trees we have saved, in talking about the carbon footprint that we have reduced, I think that we’re happy to see the tangible result. We want that result to be much bigger.

We only have one planet—based on the way that we’re consuming our resources, we would need 2.4 Earths by 2050. From where Golden Arrow is today, I believe that the major burden is how we resource the next 30 years. What do we learn from the past 30 years about how we look at the world, and provide the solutions, and continue the innovation ahead of us? We believe that our biggest competitor is Golden Arrow yesterday. We continue to look for green factory solutions in terms of recycling 100% of the world’s water and we continue to invest in green infrastructure. In May this year, we jointly committed to investment of $300 million into green infrastructure film, working together with Apple and a leading European investor.

We hope that, with everything we’re doing, actions speak louder than words.

For more on sustainable packaging, read our Luxe Pack 2018 report.

For more on global attitudes toward sustainability, read our report The New Sustainability: Regeneration.