People aren’t talking enough about the incredible return on investment you can get from switching to sustainable packaging. First, it’s important to remove any sense that this is something brands should walk toward begrudgingly. Based on what we’re seeing about consumer response to eco-friendly packaging, a pivot to responsible packaging is an opportunity.
If you’re looking for the future of aligning branding, sustainability and cost savings, the answer has been hiding in plain sight in your packaging the entire time. Nearly 70 percent of customers are already saying that sustainability is at least “somewhat important” to them when making purchasing decisions. Another 47 percent are all in when it comes to paying more for sustainable products. It’s time to make a bold commitment to the future by embracing eco-friendly packaging.
Why Eco-Friendly Packaging Is the Ultimate Brand Booster
When done right, sustainable packaging increases brand appeal for consumers, cuts production-to-arrival costs and reduces liability. Bulky, wasteful packaging may already be dragging down your brand in ways that you don’t realize. Take an in-depth look at the perks of wrapping your products in a philosophy of sustainability.
Better Brand Perception
If your packaging isn’t eco-friendly, your customers have already noticed. In fact, you may have lost a “second sale” in many cases without even knowing that your wasteful packaging was to blame. Research shows that 78 percent of customers between the ages of 18 and 72 feel more positive about products when they come sealed in packaging that’s made of recycled items.
The big flip side to that is that consumers feel negatively about brands when the packaging isn’t easily recyclable. Yes, the guilt, shame and bad feelings that customers feel when they toss piles of wasted plastics, wrappings and papers into the trash ultimately get attached to your product. Unfortunately, brands are unwittingly turning products that range from environmentally neutral to highly eco-friendly into wasteful products by default just by mismanaging packaging. As a result, all conservation and efficiency efforts for sourcing and production done during the manufacturing process are undone if the same effort isn’t applied to packaging. For brands taking image blows due to superfluous packaging, sustainability is the obvious fix that needs to happen.
Lower Shipping Costs
Nothing turns packaging from bricks to feathers faster than eco-friendly packaging! The reality is that waste makes heft. When you reduce the amount of raw materials needed to build your packaging, you’re taking away weight from the final product. While it may seem like a small trim “here and there” during the redesign process, the difference can be remarkable once you measure the difference in its entirety. Combining a lighter material for boxes with the removal of plastic trays or heavy stuffing can drastically reduce the weight of a finished product once it’s in ready-to-ship form. For brands, that means much lower shipping costs. The obvious benefit is that brands are able to price their items more competitively by passing the savings on to their customers. Some brands may even choose to offer free shipping as a sales driver.
Greater Versatility and Flexibility
While brands are hesitant to make the leap to eco-friendly packaging because they fear constraints, they are quite pleasantly surprised to discover that eco-friendly options often offer more versatility than conventional packaging materials. Here’s a look at the ways going with eco-friendly packaging opens new doors:
- Reusable Packaging: One common eco-friendly path that brands follow is reusable packaging. An option that gives packaging a second life as a usable object, reusable packaging is a powerful branding tool. Reusable packaging allows a brand to provide each customer with a “freebie” that actually adds value to the purchasing experience. In the case of something like a branded tote bag, you’re actually merging packaging and marketing costs by creating a branded asset that your customer will use as both a personal brand reminder and external “banner” for your brand! When you’re using lighter, more sustainable options to design and deploy reusable packaging, it’s actually possible to pay less per unit than you were paying for bulkier single-use packaging.
- Multiple Options Using One Packaging Material: Many eco-friendly packaging options are simply lighter and more pliable than traditional packaging. This can open up doors to create tailored packaging for each product in your line. Brands that were using proprietary packaging options for each product may suddenly find that they can tweak sustainable materials to have a more streamlined, interchangeable packaging plan. An example would be using kraft paper that can be used for everything from boxes to support sleeves. While your brand may have relied on multiple materials ranging from plastic to cardboard to achieve “package stability” in the past, a lighter and stronger option like kraft paper now covers your entire product line for less money.
- The Ability to Create Sustainability on Your Terms: Eco-friendly packaging isn’t just “one thing.” This is very important for brands that feel “trapped” by the rise of sustainable packaging. Many brand leaders may feel like they have to make their products conform to new packaging standards that don’t take product specifics into account. This actually could not be farther from the truth. Eco-friendly packaging offers many different options that allow you to get the strength and durability you need through a number of different options. For instance, a heavy product that requires securing housing to avoid damage can benefit from an option like virgin kraft paper. While not recycled, this type of packaging can be recycled after its initial use. It’s also created using eco-friendly means where all production materials and chemicals are recyclable. For products that require slightly less durability from packaging, recycled kraft paper is an option that offers end-to-end recycling because it is a recycled material that can also be recycled. Brands that dive into sustainability find that it is often not the all-or-nothing gambit they were anticipating!
The big takeaway is that sustainable packaging can be done on your terms. In fact, that’s really the best way because you’re getting value by giving value. Connecting with the right package designers and suppliers can often be the missing link that allows brands to understand what eco-friendly packaging can really do for them.
You Can Communicate the Purpose of Your Product Better
Necessity is the mother of invention. Once a brand becomes complacent with packaging, the plan simply revolves around keeping things as they are. This often leads to missed innovation. Deciding that it’s time to rethink packaging conjures up an amazing challenge for brands to get back to the basics to identify the message about a product’s purpose. When putting the focus on streamlining packing to say more with less, brands almost invariably find that they’re able to say a lot more than they were with their previous approaches. While eco-friendly packaging doesn’t always necessarily look “stripped down” without any frills, the motivation to create the little touches that stand out in a new medium often forces product managers to have to crystallize the purpose of their products into a clearer, more refined message. The result is better communication about your product’s purpose, function, value and philosophy to customers!
It’s the Right Thing to Do
If brands want to be part of the future, they have to do their part to protect the future! Brands that are profiting from packaging need to be responsible stewards. It’s really that simple! Here’s a look at some startling statistics about packaging waste that should convince all brand leaders that the time is now to pivot to responsible, sustainable packaging options:
- According to the EPA, containers and packaging accounted for 82.2 million tons of waste generation in 2018 (28 percent of total generation).
- The EPA also estimates that landfills received 30.5 million tons of containers and packaging generated in 2018 (20.9 percent of total landfilling).
- According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year.
- The IUCN also estimates that at least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year (80 percent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments).
One of the biggest tragedies associated with plastic pollution is that many species of marine life ingest plastics. Many more become entangled in plastic debris. There is also the concern that humans eat fish, shrimp, lobster and other food sources that consume these plastics. Ultimately, plastic pollution is something that impacts all humans regardless of where they live. Plastic pollution is a threat to global food safety, food quality, human health and the health of the planet.
Final Thoughts on Why It Pays to Use Sustainable Packaging Materials
It’s simply time to think about sustainability. In addition to all of the reasons listed above, the evolution of packaging is inevitable. It makes sense for a brand to make the switch on its own terms instead of being forced to make a hasty, sloppy pivot after it’s simply held on for too long. The good thing about switching to sustainability on your own terms is that you can take your time to focus on innovation during a slow transition period where costs, marketing, logistics and long-term brand strategy are all included in the equation.