21st Sep 2020
Throughout our Future of Packaging research, sustainability has remained high on the agenda for businesses. This is extremely encouraging and we must continue to make decisive steps in our approach to packaging to maintain momentum.
Covid-19 has fundamentally changed retail supply chains, with consumer demand proving turbulent and exceeding that of other seasonal peaks for some retailers, while others have been severely impacted. Looking at our own data, we’ve seen a 32% increase in production this year to date compared to the same period in 2019. This is due to increased demand from existing clients and new clients whose usual supply chains had been impacted.
Businesses have had to adapt, at pace. Firstly by responding to an increase in online customers and a migration to ecommerce by all consumers, to managing stock availability with overseas suppliers during lockdown restrictions. There’s also been an immediate requirement for new packaging for new products, along with delivery options to support products traveling to the customer in new ways. All while operating safely with a reduced workforce and capacity because social distancing measures are in place.
While this has presented overwhelming challenges, such a seismic shift has presented an opportunity for businesses to re-evaluate their packaging strategies and build sustainability into the packaging lifecycle and supply chains.
Even as bricks and mortar retail begins to reopen, consumers who have previously chosen to shop in-store have shifted to buying more online and feel more comfortable doing so with the convenience that it offers. In fact, 77% of consumers expect they will continue to purchase more online once lockdown is over. To build on existing revenue streams, and to generate new opportunities, retailers are investing heavily in ecommerce capabilities and packaging solutions that are fit for purpose.
The packaging lifecycle
According to our research, 31% of businesses stated that Covid-19 has led them to reconsider their packaging strategy to focus on end of life options. Businesses are now handling and delivering more packaging to consumers’ homes, meaning the volume of packaging material used – and at-home recyclability of material – has been brought to the forefront more than ever before. Reverse logistics processes, such as retailers requesting customers to return their unwanted packaging as part of the returns process, helps towards controlling the end of life destination of the packaging product. This also enables retailers to recycle valuable commodities and utilise the material for new products.
We believe the real opportunity for companies to improve sustainability in the packaging lifecycle lies at the beginning, starting at the R&D and design stage. Such as, reducing the size of packaging or using a super strength polythene blend that’s thinner but doesn’t compromise on durability, offers both cost savings and environmental benefits.
Improving packaging sustainability is a complex challenge. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, we know our best chance of finding the right solutions will come from a holistic, systemic approach that will require collaboration of stakeholders along both value and supply chains.
To continue reading this article, download your copy of the Future of Packaging Report: Covid-19 update here.