These days, it isn’t enough for a company to make a good product. Apart from obvious things like customer service and distribution, there is one other little factor that most companies do not consider. These days, a lot of people are looking to do business with companies that share their values. Conversely, offending a customer’s values is probably the easiest way to lose their business.
For many people on all sides of the opinion spectrum, environmental protection has become a very important value. While people may differ in their choice of methods, most of us can agree that there is a need to preserve nature…if nothing else, so that it will continue to preserve us. With that in mind, let’s look at the ways in which sustainable packaging can benefit (or hinder) your business.
Protecting Your Reputation
Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, people seem to be a lot more sensitive these days. Whether it’s an environmental issue or anything else, there are a lot more people who seem to feel strongly about their political/social/economic belief systems. Instead of debating whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, a business should instead concentrate on strategy.
As a general rule, you should avoid the temptation to get your company involved in this ideological tug-of-war. As soon as you start pushing politics or social issues, you are going to lose about half your customer base. That’s not good business by any measure. Thus, environmental issues give you a way to appeal to everyone while (hopefully) offending no one.
Again, people from all walks of life should be able to agree that nature is a precious resource. The idea of protecting the environment is one of the few ideas that can cross all the lines that divide people, and that’s why it’s a great issue on which to stand. An environmentally sound package policy will also keep you from being targeted by environmental activists.
Getting Ahead Of The Game
In many countries, there is an ongoing debate about the environmental impact of packaging. As such, many countries have adopted laws to govern this matter. Many other jurisdictions are considering such laws, so you might want to see if your state or country is among them.
If such legislation is being considered in your area, you will have to change your practices anyway. When such regulations pass, those companies who are unprepared will have to spend large amounts of money to ensure compliance. The expense will be worsened by the fact that they were completely unprepared. As such, you might as well get ahead of the competition by adopting sustainable packaging practices right now.
As an example, we might point to a bill that is currently being debated by the Canadian government. We chose Canada as a random example, so don’t read too much into that part. This bill, C-429, would make it illegal to use non-recyclable products in any sort of product packaging.
Many companies are already crying foul about this act, saying that it leaves them with very few options. While that is probably true, private companies do not create law (nor should they attempt to do so). Thus, we would say that the ones complaining are not taking the intelligent approach. The intelligent approach would be to get ahead of the changes and make the transition much easier for your company.
Shows That You Are Proactive On The Environment
As we mentioned earlier, many countries have laws that are aimed at limiting corporate impact upon the environment. Many other laws of this sort will probably be forthcoming, and we already mentioned the need to be prepared. Now let’s talk a little bit more about the benefits to your company’s reputation.
If the government has to force your company to respect the environment, you can’t really brag about that, can you? In other words, you cannot use environmental responsibility as a marketing point unless you adopted those policies voluntarily. In the past, a company could get away with this kind of hypocrisy. However, people are much more connected than ever, and some would argue that people are now better-informed than ever.
Of course, there is a question as to the accuracy of the information, but that is another matter entirely. What you need to know is that people on the internet will check your company out, and any discrepancies with your advertising will surely be brought to light. Thus, a small number of comments on social media (if their information spreads) can be incredibly damaging to your brand.
So, to sum things up: You need to adopt sustainable packaging practices now, as opposed to doing it later because some government agency forced you to do so. Otherwise, you will make yourself look shady and dishonest. That’s one of the worst things for any brand, so it’s worth some trouble to avoid such appearances.
For a more concrete example of this, let’s consider the Coca-Cola company. According to some research, this company is responsible for more plastic waste than any other corporation in the world (except the big oil/energy conglomerates, who are always the worst on the list).
Say what you will about Coca-Cola, but they did the smart thing here. They started a new ad campaign that was meant to remind people of the need to recycle their products. These ads also remind the customer that Coke bottles have been 100% recyclable for years, so it really isn’t the company’s fault that many people choose not to recycle. By informing the customer and attempting to address the issue (without being forced to do so), Coca-Cola probably prevented a lot of potential damage to their brand.
Your Investors Will Probably Be Happy
Most businesses have wealthy patrons who invest in the company, and they are always going to be the de facto bosses of any company. Even if they don’t have the title “CEO” under their names, these are the people who hold the purse strings. As such, they are going to be a little more wary of spending money on new initiatives like sustainable packaging.
However, investors also tend to be very concerned with the reputation of the company. That’s why they are likely to be very interested in some initiatives of a green variety. Green investing is all the rage these days, as no one wants to be left behind. This trend is partly driven by attitudes and partly driven by necessity.
Of course, a lot of people think of environmental initiatives as expensive measures that force a company to spend more money. In some cases, this is true, but the amount of money you preserve can be worth it in the long run. For one thing, these environmental initiatives are a hedge against boycotts and reputational damage. Sure, changing your company’s policies might be expensive to implement, but a boycott by environmental activists is more expensive still.
But how can green initiatives be good for the company’s bottom line? This article gives a few examples. While covering the most popular green power investments (like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power), they also talk about the potential to reduce waste. This part definitely applies to the packaging industry.
In many cases, waste products can be re-used. While this is not always possible, it can be a great way to cut your costs. If you are re-using the same raw materials more than once, it can only be good for your bottom line. The only potential hitch is the money that it costs to process and recycle these waste products.
To deal with this, your company might even consider investing in some recycling facilities. Not only will this show your customers and investors how serious you are, but it will also allow you to sell recycling services to other companies. Thus, it becomes a way to reduce waste and make some extra profit at the same time. When dealing with investors (who are always concerned with that bottom line), a win-win scenario like this one is probably going to be an easy sell.
With all this talk about the practicalities of business, we should give a little space to the ethical considerations that are part of this issue. Again, environmental protection should be an issue that crosses all lines. After all, the state of the planet affects everyone, and that’s where ethics come into the picture.
The concept of ethics was first invented by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Plato described ethics as the behaviors that would lead to the greatest common good (or eudaimonia in Greek). Thus, we can say that one’s ethics, whether good or bad, can be seen in the results of one’s actions.
If we apply these concepts to our current subject matter, the connection is quite clear. Environmental protection is a matter of safeguarding the common good. Sure, a corporation is trying to make money, but all of that money comes from the communities in which they operate. As a result, anything that negatively affects the community is bound to negatively affect your business as well.
Rules For Sustainable Packaging
As you seek to move your business toward an eco-conscious packaging system, you will have to deal with a unique set of challenges. We say that because every business has different needs, and it will take some creativity to meet them all. Although we cannot set your policies for you, we can give you a few general rules that should help you along:
- Use paper packaging whenever possible. Kraft paper is probably the most durable choice.
- For water-resistant packaging, use cellulose-based plastics instead of oil-based ones.
- Make sure that your packaging is 100% recyclable.
- If your packaging is made from recycled material, make sure it can be recycled again.
- Make sure to reference your eco-friendly packaging in your company ads.
- Don’t forget to print with eco-friendly ink.
- Seal your packages with tape made from paper or cellulose.
- Reduce or eliminate toxic substances at every level of the process
A Word About Sourcing
A lot has been said about the need to choose eco-friendly materials. While this is important, we should also think about the other companies with which we are doing business. Anytime you associate your company with another one, you take the risk of having your reputation damaged by their missteps.
As such, you should make sure that you are buying from companies that source their products in sustainable ways. For instance, imagine a case in which you are promoting a product made of wood. Wood is a natural material, and it’s easy to recycle, so you are doing good at first glance. Of course, if this wood is coming from a company that does clear-cutting operations in the Amazon rainforest, your product cannot be called green, sustainable, or anything of the kind.
In the end, ethical concerns should be enough for any company to adopt more eco-friendly packaging solutions. Chances are, you want your descendants to grow up in a relatively clean environment so that they won’t have to worry about getting cancer at age 9 or growing an extra limb. That might sound like a joke, but it isn’t: Pollution has caused birth defects all over the world. Do you really want to be responsible for that? Chances are, you do not.
We hope that we have given you a good introduction to this subject. We also hope that you will do the responsible thing and make sure that your packaging is made in an eco-conscious way. If you can’t bring yourself to do it for altruistic reasons, you should do it for reasons of convenience and marketing. Either way, we hope that you have enjoyed this article and that you will fill out the contact form to learn more.