Business News

Why brands can’t claim to be sustainable without looking at their packaging

In this exclusive guest article, Zuzanna Muzurek, Head of Sustainability at Packhelp, explores why brands can’t claim to be sustainable without looking at their packaging.

Sustainability has become a leading differentiator for brands in the last decade. Two-thirds (67%) of customers now consider it important that the products they buy are in recyclable packaging and 83% of younger customers are even willing to pay more for a product with sustainable packaging. As awareness has increased, the public has become more interested in environmental issues.

While sustainability isn’t always front and centre of customer decision-making processes, if similar products are side by side, the ethically aware will more frequently select the brand known for its green credentials. Whether it’s the removal of products tested on animals from recipes or the vetoing of single-use plastic.

For most brands, however, their sustainability efforts – or otherwise – won’t have been an issue to hit the headlines. While the biggest names, like Apple, may have gained kudos for switching to 100% renewable energy for its global facilities. Or suffered for the worst kind of ‘greenwashing’, as Volkswagen did when the company was found to have cheated emissions tests. However, the majority of businesses will be judged on first impressions. And that’s why packaging counts.

Why sustainable packaging matters

The argument for sustainability has already been volubly made. In packaging, this means the use of materials that remain healthy throughout the life cycle; that can be sourced, made, and transported with renewable energy; adjusting the size of packaging to match its insert; making the packaging from recyclates; using fewer materials or/and that can be disposed of – whether through recycling or composting – with lesser harm to the environment.

Using sustainable packaging means that your business is contributing less to global pollution and doing its best not to contribute to issues like the ocean plastic crisis. But there are other considerations too.

According to 2021’s Global Buying Green Report, two-thirds (67%) of consumers consider it important that the products they buy are in recyclable packaging. And that figure increases to 83% amongst younger customers, who are even willing to pay more for a product with sustainable packaging.

But, as a business, you also have to make packaging decisions that will protect your products and continue to provide your customers with outstanding service. After all, no matter how sustainable it may be, packaging that fails to protect the goods within can never be considered environmentally friendly if it leads to damage and waste.

So, how do you navigate making the right choices for your business, and more importantly, your customers?

How to make the right sustainable packaging choices

When it comes to selecting sustainable packaging for your products, it’s important to ensure that your values don’t compromise your design or accessibility. While there are a variety of aesthetic design choices – from the unadorned to the conscious packaging that expresses its credentials with a sunny, ‘Hey! I’m recycled!’ – your number one concern should be selecting packaging that both does what it was intended to do, and is easy for your customers to use.

This will, of course, vary according to your product type. But there are various sustainable options available:

  • It may seem trivial but choosing the right size of packaging is the key. The bigger the packaging, the more material is required. The more material required, the more space needed in transport, which means the bigger CO2 emissions. With today’s construction possibilities, tailor-made packaging without a lot of fillers is possible even for the most fragile goods like glass. If you have to use fillers, make sure they are made of your leftovers before you buy other environmentally-friendly options. Protect everything with a paper taper and make sure to educate your customer on how to dispose of the elements of packaging.
  • Recycled and recylable packaging. Probably the most common option at the moment, recycled and recyclable packaging is cost-effective and easily customisable. The more recycled material, the smaller the carbon footprint, so pay attention when choosing the right options. If you use virgin materials, make sure to source them from responsible and ethical sources. And using virgin materials also makes it possible to recycle. Companies must also bear in mind that labels aren’t always recyclable – in many cases, the packaging is made from a different type of plastic than the label, so they should be separated before disposing of it in the bin. It is important to make them easy to peel off the packaging, or they can be made from the same material as the packaging.
  • Compostable packaging. There are two main forms of compostable packaging: home composting and industrial composting, and the difference between them is significant. Composting is defined as the process of biodegradation under aerobic conditions within a time frame of six to twelve weeks. While home composting is often food scraps and plant matter, a common mistake is lending the packaging labelled as compostable to suitable for at-home compost piles. In many cases, compostable packaging requires industrial composting. Industrial compost differs as it’s run by your local city or government and takes and processes industrially approved material for large-scale composting. So, it’s important to be fully transparent and ensure that any compostable packaging comes with clear instructions.
  • Reusable packaging. Although often more expensive to produce, reusable packaging carries significant advertising potential, spreading your name and green credentials to a far wider market. Greek skincare company Korres is a good example of this. They collect their used packaging and reuse this and recycle it in their facility in Athens. Also, you can get creative with what’s already in your office or warehouse before buying new boxes to optimise your budget and save for more durable materials.

Why it’s important to align your sustainability values with your packaging

Customers are not afraid to call out businesses guilty of hypocrisy. And in the age of social media, news travels fast. And big brands aren’t safe from this. For example, in the annual report, Break Free From Plastics, Coca-Cola was recognised as the world’s number one ranked plastic polluter, and despite this, the company still contends that they are tackling packaging waste.

If your brand espouses sustainable values but fails to follow through, the impact can be incredibly damaging. And the use of sustainable packaging is arguably one of the easiest ways to demonstrate that you practice what you preach.

Sustainable packaging can carry the opportunity for businesses to express their ethics and understanding of green issues, and to be transparent while doing so. So, if you can’t find a perfect solution, admit to it. Explain what the problem is, what you’re trying to do about it, and why.  Customers are more forgiving of acknowledged imperfection than they are of concealed truths. Sustainability is nuanced and constantly evolving, and we all learn on the go with it – don’t be afraid to admit it.

Why there’s no silver bullet when it comes to sustainable packaging

There will never be a single, easy, catch-all solution for sustainable packaging. Partly – obviously – because of the wide diversity of products that need to be catered for, but also because all forms of sustainable packaging come with caveats.

Some compostable materials, for example, can only decompose in the high temperatures created at industrial facilities or require masses of energy to produce. Paper and card recycling consume a lot of water. Reusable packaging is often made without end-of-life disposal in mind; paradoxically, plastics are the best material for transportation because they are light and durable.

So, unless we return to a packaging-free society – and really, who wants to be carrying their sweets and cornflakes in their natural form? – there will always be issues associated with sustainable packaging. But we can all take steps to at least make a difference. Whether swapping plastic for cardboard or simply downsizing the packaging we use.

The packaging you choose to use for your products holds power for your business. It can help to change the world. It can make a lasting difference to the state of the environment, influence how the world sees you and how much your customers like you, and determine whether your brand is one that can be trusted.

The post Why brands can’t claim to be sustainable without looking at their packaging appeared first on Business Leader.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.