Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Sustainable Packaging Practices

Dec 8, 2022

As customers become increasingly savvy about eco-credentials, businesses can’t afford to be left behind when it comes to sustainable packaging.

In a world full of choices, there’s no doubt packaging is a critical marketing tool when it comes to product selection. But it’s not just about how attractive the packaging is or how cleverly the information is presented. Increasingly, if a brand or business is not making some effort towards improving the sustainability of their packaging, they’re going to miss out on business.

A 2020 survey showed customers are most likely to revisit a brand because of quality, but sustainable business practices come a close second. Almost 70 per cent of consumers say that their loyalty to a brand is strengthened if they share the same values.

And a rapidly growing number of consumers see sustainability as one of their core values. According to an IBM Research Insights report, nearly six in 10 consumers surveyed said they were willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact and nearly eight in 10 respondents indicated sustainability is important for them.
So, what message does sustainable packaging send to your customers? And how does it affect your bottom line if you’re not on board with global efforts to improve sustainable business practices?

Losing market share

Dr Helen Lewis, an environmental consultant specialising in product stewardship and sustainable packaging, says there is a risk that companies could lose market share to competitors that introduce and promote new environmental features.

“Companies that have targets and strategies to improve their packaging sustainability are sending a message to customers that they take sustainability seriously,” Lewis says.

As well as losing out to competitors, businesses should be aware of regulations that ban problematic packaging formats.

“It can happen quite quickly,” she says. “For example, the Australian Government’s National Plastics Plan announcing the phase out of EPS packaging for consumer goods by 2023.

“Companies need to stay ahead of the curve by understanding the environmental impacts of their packaging and looking for alternatives.”

Innovation on the rise

But as more and more companies work to improve their packaging sustainability, how can you stand out from the crowd?

“Look for innovative solutions that differentiate your business, whether that’s a new material made from a waste product or renewable source, or a completely different business model such as for refill or reuse,” Lewis says.

It’s also important to understand what the term sustainable packaging means, and for decisions to be based on good research and a solid understanding of benefits.

“We’re seeing too many claims about sustainable packaging that are verging on greenwash because they highlight a particular improvement, such as recycled content, rather than the overall impact.”

The consumer is very engaged with this issue, says Lewis, and won’t let brands get away with poor behaviour.

“Market research tells us, again and again, that most consumers are concerned about the environmental impacts of packaging and want brand owners to take responsibility for it,” she says.

“Don’t just jump on a popular bandwagon such as using a so-called ‘biodegradable’ material that delivers no environmental benefit. Set ambitious targets and be transparent by communicating your goals and progress to date with customers.”

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