The use of more sustainable packaging has already risen to the top of the agenda for big brands. From in-store recycling donation programmes and plantable packaging to eco-friendly manufacturing initiatives and zero-waste commitments – brands seem to be covering all bases. But what are their motivations? We looked at 7 key reasons more brands are shifting to sustainable packaging.
Meet growing consumer demand
Consumers are increasingly aware of how their actions affect the planet and they expect brands to be too. More and more are likely to abandon even their favourite brands that don’t adopt sustainable packaging policies and solutions. A 2020 survey by the Chartered Institute of Marketing revealed 85% of its 2,000 respondents felt companies used too much packaging, with online retailers and supermarkets identified as ‘the worst offenders in the eyes of the public.
Commenting on the study, CIM’s Director of Marketing, Gemma Butler acknowledged the change in consumer behaviours brought on by the pandemic, and the subsequent increase in online purchasing and packaged deliveries. She said: “It is clear that there are huge opportunities for brands that can offer innovative ways to help customers reduce, reuse and recycle their plastic and excess packaging consumption.”
Generate more sales from increasingly eco-friendly customers
It’s not all about customer retention either. Brands are shifting to more sustainable packaging to win over new customers too. Eco-friendliness is a key consideration for consumers purchasing products for the first time. According to strategy+business, the COVID-19 lockdowns gave consumers more time to think about the purchases they made.
The article highlights PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey from June 2021 with more than half surveyed stating that they’ve become even more eco-focussed since the pandemic. Today, consumers do their research before buying and will consider a brand’s approach to sustainability. Brands know this and as a result, are making sure their sustainability efforts are communicated clearly.
Customising packaging eliminates infill use
The use of excess packaging is one of the key reasons consumers are boycotting some brands and switching to others. When a fragile product needs to be shipped, void-fill material is often used to protect the item. Typically, this infill is packing peanuts, airbags, polystyrene chips, or paper shreds.
Brands are now choosing to customise packaging to fit products more precisely, negating the need for additional packaging. Where this is not possible, some brands are using corn waste for packing peanuts, or other biodegradable, plant-based materials.
When Axiom GB won a contract to automate the packing and dispatch process at Asda’s Clipper Logistics’ Boughton facility, the company included two lidding machines in their packing and dispatch solution.
One lidding machine caters for larger boxes and one for smaller ones. Each machine measures the highest point of the goods inside every box and then scores and folds down the sides of the box to make it a bespoke size before a lid is glued on.
Smaller packages equal more warehouse space
With The Grocer reporting on the demand for warehouse space outstripping supply, the rising cost of storage is an issue for all brands, in almost every sector. Because this space is at a premium, some brands are responding by reducing the volume of packaging they use for their products, thereby supporting their sustainability goals too.
Adopting the use of more customised packaging also helps maximise space and sustainability efforts. Small adjustments like these can make a big difference to the overall warehouse capacity, particularly when there is a high volume of products.
Reduce shipping costs
It is a misconception that environmentally friendly packaging is always more expensive than conventional packaging. In fact, over time, it can end up costing brands less. In addition, shipping costs like bubble wrap, tape and cardboard boxes can also be reduced or even eliminated if fewer packaging materials are used, assisting the ease of end of life recycling.
Shipping calculations can depend on the product volume and weight, along with the quantity. If more product can be shipped per container, this will reduce shipping costs (volume), especially when using water-based transport.
The weight will have a greater bearing when it comes to air or road transport, where this can become the driving force in costs, along with the number of each item per shipment. A heavier and thicker primary pack could massively increase freight costs and environmental emissions; customised secondary or tertiary packaging could reduce the product volume, improving packing density, and reducing freight costs and environmental emissions.
Reduce carbon footprint
As we continue to see a global rise in CO2 emissions, it’s also important for brands to reduce their carbon footprint. One way they can achieve this is through adjusting their use of packaging.
When calculating a brand’s carbon footprint in terms of its packaging use, the amount of greenhouse gas any materials generated during manufacture is measured. This includes the production of any raw materials and the transport of these materials to and from the factory and to the consumer. Reusability and waste volume are also factored into the carbon footprint calculation.
Many brands are therefore deciding to customise packaging designs in order to reduce waste, at the same time-saving money on production and transportation. They are also opting for more sustainable raw materials and continue to move away from single-use packaging.
The correct packaging
In a world of green-washing and competing claims it is very difficult to specify the ‘greenest’ packaging. A very good blog by Advanced Dynamics Ltd (a supplier to Axiom) looks at the definitions of different levels of packaging and how they could be confused and minimised.
All packaging is derived from raw materials, whether grown, mined or otherwise extracted, they have a footprint that affects the earth. The producer and distributor of the products needs to look at the complete cycle to derive the optimum package for the product. This is a highly complex calculation which includes protection of the product, protection in transport, marketing, reduction in the number of different materials and ease to recycle in commercial routes.
Consumers need to be educated on disposal after use. Discarded glass may not cause the perceived environmental issues of plastic but is still a cause of damage and death to wildlife. It is also a major cause of wildfires in a world of increasing droughts.
Wherever in the world the consumer is, local authorities and supply industries need to combine and roll-out consistently leading recycling collection schemes and methods that are easy to follow.
There are a multitude of viable reasons why brands are making the move to sustainable packaging. Often guided by their own Corporate Social Responsibility agendas, many are contributing effectively to global green ambitions with the packaging policies they adopt. In the process, their actions are creating a positive brand image, helping retain existing customers and attract new ones.
Financially, brands are set to gain too. Purchasing fewer packaging materials, cutting shipping costs and minimising the impact of local packaging taxes only add to the incentives for brands to make an even bigger shift to sustainable packaging in the future.
Axiom can help look at alternative packaging materials and applications to minimise waste in all forms as part of an integrated warehouse solution. If you would like more information or have a packaging project you would like to discuss contact Julian Tarratt at Axiom GB on 01827 61212.