On May 1st, the UK became the first country in the world to declare a ‘climate emergency’. This declaration came after protests in the capital and a call to action by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who met with EU leaders to address concerns that climate change needs to be treated as a priority.
In the wake of this ‘climate emergency’, it is still unclear what the definition of this declaration is. There have been calls to reach zero emissions before 2050 and to transform manufacturing to deliver a greener product cycle. However, the intricate processes behind these changes are far from straightforward.
A recent pledge by the government to eliminate plastic waste by 2042 has sparked conversation and action across the entire supply chain. We know the targets and reasoning behind the rethink, but investing in larger scale innovations can be substantial for brands of all sizes.
The best way to look at the cost of sustainable practices is to focus on the bigger picture. Yes, in the short-term you may have a significant outlay in a change of materials and branding, but it’s the far-reaching impact you can make on consumers that is the most critical aspect of this innovation.
Consumers are leading the charge for sustainable solutions
According to research by Pro Carton, 55% of consumers are purchasing more products in environmentally friendly packaging. This survey also highlighted that 80% of UK consumers agreed there should be a tax to force retailers and brands to adopt more sustainable packaging. So this change in attitude towards eco-conscious consumerism could cost a brand dearly if not taken on-board.
How are brands responding to consumer demand?
Up until now, eco-friendly innovations have often been viewed as gimmicky. However, in light of recent events and intense media scrutiny, these changes are now becoming the status quo. Numerous mainstream brands are joining the ranks to change their ways; Iceland, McDonald’s and Co-op have set out targets to go plastic-free or use 100% sustainable packaging.
Some brands can innovate faster than others. International giants have the funds to respond quickly, but for others it can seriously affect the bottom-line. Transitioning takes time, yet planning for this change highlights the benefits of investment.
Can eco-friendly packaging transform a brand?
We all know that packaging isn’t just something that holds your product together. It’s a way to communicate your brand message to consumers. Simply put, it sells your product to prospective customers.
Making your product stand out in an ever-growing market is a challenging feat. As mentioned above, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact packaging has on the environment. They want a sustainable alternative to ensure they are doing their bit.
By harnessing this change in consumer behaviour, your brand can benefit in several ways including:
Improving brand strength and customer retention
Offering a greener alternative not only helps you stand out from your competitors. It also improves customer loyalty, as consumers are more likely to identify with your dedication to reducing your company’s impact on the environment.
Identifying social responsibility
Showcasing social responsibility is another important factor in overall sustainable practices. By investing in people and communities, you can help educate a broader audience on your commitment to providing greener alternatives.
Cost is a significant factor in how quickly businesses can ‘go green’. However, there are some tax breaks and schemes to encourage sustainable practices. Check out environmental taxes, reliefs and schemes here.
What is the future for sustainable packaging?
You may have seen the recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Plymouth where they exposed compostable and biodegradable bags to natural elements for three years. Unfortunately, this study highlighted that even after long-term exposure; the so-called biodegradable bags could still hold a bag of shopping.
As a consumer, this is confusing.
You use a bag that is classified as biodegradable, and you half expect it to just disintegrate within a few months. But research says it doesn’t! So what next?
As a business, this is also confusing.
You’ve invested in greener packaging, opted for sustainable waste management (possibly spending more money) and you’re still potentially harming the environment! But the buck stops with you, and it could affect your brand image.
Education and investment are key — for both brands and consumers.
Moving towards sustainable packaging is inevitable. However, just buying into the premise that it does what it says on the tin leaves an open responsibility clause. Each stage in the process should be considered — from the materials used, to the manufacturing cycle, through to recycling methods — we need to create a circular economy.
Of course, this is a complex field and doesn’t just lie at a manufacturer’s door either. Waste collection, recycling and how the government deals with these issues is a significant factor. We can’t change these things overnight, but these broader issues shouldn’t negate from the immediate changes you can make as a company.
Even though there may be sustainable challenges ahead across the entire supply chain, small changes can make a big difference to your brand.
Here are some of the best examples of brands that will inspire you to go green:
Lush states they have always been dedicated to reducing packaging. But a few years back they went one step further with the introduction of the Lush Naked stores. These shops are dedicated to providing a packaging-free experience with everything from everyday favourites plus new concepts such as ‘naked shower gel’. These products not only come without packaging, they also last longer than your average body care essentials to save consumers money.
Cracking open a can conjures an image of fizz or a complete soaking if it’s been rolling around in your bag! However, if it’s a CanO Water drink, it’s a slightly different experience. Water in a can sounds weird, but in reality, why weren’t we doing it before. The cans are made from recycled aluminium, just like if you were cracking open a Cola, and when recycled can be back on the shelf within 60 days.
As the name describes, Vegware is a manufacturer of plant-based compostable packaging. They have a vast catalogue of products that help businesses choose eco products as an alternative to plastic. Each item is made from renewable, lower carbon or recycled materials. Plus you can pop them in commercial food composters (where accepted).
Change takes time
Although experts warn there may be an adverse effect of climate change if not addressed in the next few decades, changing processes isn’t just a snap decision that businesses can make lightly.
Of course, modifications need to be made alongside further innovation in the entire supply chain. However, manufacturers, brands and consumers need to feel confident and informed their investment is influential for the greater good.