• Packaging Sustainability must embrace simplicity

    18th Dec 2019

    Busy online shopping periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are shining a spotlight on packaging and mean companies now have to focus on simplifying sustainability messaging.

    Sustainability is a hot topic, and one that’s inspiring change right through supply chains. It’s encouraging manufacturers, logistics providers and retailers to be more carbon conscious. This, positively, drives widespread debate and ground-breaking innovation, but inadvertently creates a by-product of consumer confusion.

    Ongoing debate is leading to consumers being bombarded by claims and counterclaims about the environmental performance and impact of different packaging solutions. At the same time, new materials are being imagined and tested, with further sustainability claims being determined and heralded. This adds to the debate, leading to information overload amongst consumers and a risk of them becoming either sceptical or disengaged.

    During busy trading periods, this consumer uncertainty minimises the opportunity for companies to convince shoppers about their sustainability credentials. For example, this year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday coincided with monthly pay days, meaning people did their Christmas shopping earlier and received multiple ecommerce deliveries in a short, concentrated period of time. The end result is that shoppers are suddenly faced with a high volume of different packaging materials, each with varying claims and perceptions about why they are sustainable.

    Consumers don’t always have the time or confidence to work out what is or isn’t the most sustainable packaging choice. They want to quickly know their online order has been packaged in the ‘greenest’ way possible. If they can’t do this, there’s a high chance they won’t buy from that brand or retailer again. Similarly, the small window of opportunity to communicate sustainability claims could lead to consumers sharing their packaging frustrations and concerns on social media, running the risk of reputational damage.

    To overcome these challenges

    Companies need to simplify their sustainability messaging. They already realise the importance of recyclable and renewable, and now need to move from the ‘why’ to the ‘how’. It’s not enough to tell consumers ‘why’ something is better for the environmental – they want to know ‘how’ it is actually reducing CO2 and waste.

    The ‘how’ needs to be explained succinctly and be easy-to-understand. For example, we produce GreenPE mailing bags from a renewable and sustainable source, sugar cane. During the ethical growth of the sugar cane, it captures and stores CO2 from the atmosphere, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is chemically identical to regular plastic which means the mailing bags are recyclable in the same way. Plus, it’s straight-forward to calculate how each kilogram of Green PE produced saves 2.85kg of CO2 when compared to the production of conventional fossil-based polyethylene.

    The simplicity of this sustainability messaging is proving a hit with retailers and has led to record sales of our GreenPE mailing bags. Over 4 million (4,095,000) have been sold during the past 10 weeks, as online retailers and logistics firms fulfil orders for the Black Friday and Christmas trading period.

    Many companies are positively embracing sustainability and are well aware that we’re likely to seeing growing demand for more eco-friendly products and ways of working. The challenge for companies isn’t just to meet this demand, it’s to do so in a compelling way, which consumers can quickly grasp.

    As featured in Packaging News Soapbox