22nd Nov 2021
A new Government-backed Code signals the end for greenwashing and turbocharges the sales, customer service and sustainability potential of packaging. Duo Brand Director, Zoe Brimelow spoke with Insider NW to explain the changes and opportunities.
Ahead of COP26 – the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference – the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published a new Green Claims Code. This is based on six principles to help businesses comply with existing consumer law when making environmental claims.
Businesses now have until the new year to review their environmental claims and ensure that, in summary, they are truthful and accurate, clear and unambiguous, do not hide or omit information, make fair and meaningful comparisons, consider the full life cycle of a product or service, and are fully substantiated. This provides a much welcome level playing field for eco-friendly claims made by brands via packaging.
The ethos of the Code recognises the growing importance of sustainability to people when they’re buying goods and services. As such, the CMA wants to ensure that people are not misled by companies, either inadvertently or deliberately, when using methods including statements, symbols, logos, graphics, colours and product brand names to communicate green credentials.
With packaging often featuring many of these methods of communication, the Code places even greater importance on the customer-facing role of packaging. It’s often the last point of contact before a customer interacts with a purchased product and an opportune moment to reinforce key brand messages. This is even more relevant for delivery packaging. Sustainability-conscious customers are increasingly mindful of the carbon footprint of their shopping habits and, when opening their packages, are keen to be reassured about environmental performance.
Taking this into account, packaging is a good starting point for checking compliance with the Green Claims Code and could prove a platform that sets the benchmark for genuinely engaging customers influenced by sustainable practices. An end-to-end packaging strategy that properly considers the choice of material usage, performance and functionality, and aesthetic design can epitomise a brand’s green credentials.
Genuinely green claims
Enforcement of the Code should help end inaccurate comparisons made between different types of packaging materials. These comparisons will often be skewed towards the recyclability of a material, making little allowance for other environmental considerations such as the energy consumed during material production or perhaps how sustainable a material is.
This is something we’ve always been particularly mindful of at Duo. We work closely with customers to ensure messages printed on their packaging are clear and unambiguous. This avoids featuring too many logos and messages about a packaging material’s ‘green claims’, which can be confusing for consumers and detracts from the main message. To overcome this, our clients have featured a QR code within their packaging design, enabling consumers to view more information online easily and simply about the brand’s sustainability goals. The digital, online elements of this also mean that any changes in green credentials and goals can be quickly updated, without the risk of new information resulting in outdated and waste packaging.
Another good example of clear messaging is GreenPE – a sugarcane-based material that we were first to market with in the UK. The packaging is fully recyclable but it’s not quite as simple as just stating this. Although it can be recycled with other plastics, it benefits from being in a closed loop system. By keeping the material in a ‘loop’ with other LDPE 4 waste, the packaging can then be reused to manufacture new polyethylene packaging products.
We also communicate the science behind the sourcing and production of GreenPE mailing bags, so customers can make more informed decisions about the CO2 compared to a conventional oil-based polythene and other packaging materials. The renewable content of a GreenPE product can be certified by various bodies in Europe, the US and Asia. This verification process focuses on the product’s carbon 14 isotope, which is the age of the carbon in the resin. GreenPE is typically less than a year old, whereas the carbon in conventional fossil plastics dates back roughly a hundred million years. Thanks to this, percentage inclusion rates can be backed up, providing evidence for on-pack messaging.
More than a material choice
We’ve worked with many customers to turn their packaging from a blank canvas into a creative source of information. This has included on-pack messaging about the packaging material and recycling to proactively answer any potential concerns relating to environmental performance. This delivers an element of customer service and satisfaction, helping to build positive brand awareness and loyalty.
Whilst this on-pack communication is important and will become even more so as messaging and design comes under scrutiny of the Green Claims Code, it is also supported by a circular approach to packaging. For example, we’ve developed reusable and returnable mailing bags that feature an integrated carry handle and additional glue strip. This makes it even easier for people to return items in the original packaging, plus makes it convenient to carry when they’re using lower carbon forms of transport such as bikes or on foot.
Taking this circular, full life cycle approach aligns with the Code and resonates with customers. Booming ecommerce is prompting people to think more about how their orders are packaged. This creates a powerful opportunity for companies – and packaging – to satisfy growing customer curiosity and demand for sustainability, whilst improving customer relations and sales along the way.
As featured in Insider NW