Thinking Outside the Box – On Sustainable Packaging

by | Feb 14, 2019

Shelton Stat

Fifty percent of Americans say that a company’s corporate social responsibility impacts their likelihood to purchase a product from that company (Eco Pulse 2018).

Sustainability Win of the Week

In light of the world’s current plastic waste problem, a number of companies are looking to new, sustainable solutions – and many of them involve creative changes to packaging.

When people think of “sustainable packaging,” oftentimes recyclability is top of mind. (We’ve actually covered this extensively in our blog and recent articles – it’s not just “people;” it’s also brands). But given the low rates of actual recycling of single-use packages, there are many more factors to sustainable packaging that need to be considered to truly qualify a package as sustainable. Given the complexities, brands typically require guidance – and that’s exactly where the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) steps in.

The SPC, a trademark project of environmental nonprofit GreenBlue Org, which is dedicated to the sustainable use of materials in society, and supported by dozens of major companies from the whole packaging value chain, like ExxonMobil, Domtar, Mars, P&G, Estée Lauder and Walmart, is the authority on materials management and sustainable packaging strategies for business. This past week, the SPC announced its new Goals Database resource, which inventories various corporations’ sustainability goals surrounding packaging and CSR and “brings the sum of the parts into focus.”

According the SPC press release, “close to 100 Fortune 500 and SPC member companies are profiled in the database and hundreds of individual goals are available.” The genius of the approach is its collaborative mentality – providing solutions and answers to questions most of us never would have pondered, but that the packaging value chain definitely needs to consider. Namely, the new service allows us all to get beyond one-sided approaches to packaging (e.g., “just recycle” or “just reuse,” which now borders on greenwashing) and consider the preponderance of factors that make up sustainable packaging and sustainability goals.

The bottom line is this: whereas sustainable packaging may be a hot-button issue, it requires extensive, in-depth thinking on potential tradeoffs between packaging goals and sustainability goals. One size will not fit all. Whereas a new packaging solution might be sustainable strictly from a packaging standpoint, it needs to take other factors into consideration, too, including logistics, infrastructure, emissions and so on. It requires refashioning a sustainability story about your brand that is holistic and presented to consumers in a simple and clear way.

The Shelton team is doing a lot of work on this issue in partnership with our clients right now, and we’re about to go in the field with one of our own Pulse® studies to better understand how Middle America is looking at all of this. We’ll reveal what we think will be very interesting insights from that study this summer, so stay tuned!

News of the Week

More grocers are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to food waste – GreenBiz

Hot off the press – Check out our own new article in GreenBiz, featuring the topic of food waste and the measures grocery and food retailers are taking to stop it.

Shades of green – Professional Builder

We’re especially proud of our work in the sustainable housing/building and real estate sectors. Featuring our brand new piece in Professional Builder magazine, which covers how builders and buyers differ in their definition and valuation of green homes. Buyers are willing to pay extra for green homes, our research reveals, but it is up to builders and sellers to market a specific way.

Upcycling your way to sustainability – Forbes

One of the biggest sustainability trends in the fashion/retail industry in 2019 is upcycling – a sort of high-end, artistic way of refashioning recycled and reusable products into new goods. This piece from Forbes explores a variety of upcycling approaches and strategies, as well as complementary sustainability goals and initiatives in the retail industry.

Yes, sustainability can be a strategy – Harvard Business Review

Is sustainability a strategy for gaining a competitive advantage or, rather, a commonly shared practice in which all companies engage for survival? The answer is yes and yes – it mostly depends on the sustainability goals you adopt. Based on analysis of MSCI ESG ratings from nearly 4,000 companies, researchers determined that sustainability “can be both a necessity and a differentiator.”

When it comes to sustainability, how does YOUR company stack up?

We’ve interviewed sustainability leaders and gathered their advice for what it takes to successfully bake sustainability into a corporate structure. Learn the stages of corporate sustainability – from initial strategy to final implementation – and get the game plan to achieve a competitive advantage by mobilizing your team.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Courtnay Hamachek

VP Operations

Courtnay oversees our day-to-day operations to keep us running smoothly and support our growth. She establishes project management systems and processes to help our teams anticipate bottlenecks, prevent process issues, and keep projects on time and on target. Courtnay has built extensive experience over 25 years in all aspects of marketing, from account services and project management to design and production.

Aaron Crecy

Digital Marketing Director

Aaron is responsible for planning, executing and measuring digital marketing strategies for Shelton Group and our clients, with an emphasis on inbound, content, SEO, social media, email and paid initiatives. He constantly researches and explores new tactics and strategies to improve digital campaign performance and results.

Aaron brings to the table more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience with premium consumer-facing brands. He came to Shelton Group by way of Malibu Boats, where, as Director of Global Marketing, he oversaw strategic marketing planning and execution for multiple product lines, with specific emphasis on social media and digital. Prior to that, he served as CMO for a leading daily fantasy sports operator, guiding it from startup to the industry’s third-ranked site.

Scot Case

Senior Consultant

A sustainability strategy consultant since 1993, Scot has served as non-profit leader, as a partner in an environmental marketing firm that he grew and sold, and as an executive in a multi-billion-dollar, international company. He has published dozens of articles and case studies, was co-author of the original “Sins of Greenwashing” study, testified before Congress, and been quoted on NPR, Good Morning America, CNN, The New York Times, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. Scot was also highlighted in an Emmy award-winning documentary on sustainable purchasing.

Casey Ward

VP Account Services

Casey manages our relationships, growth and development with a specific group of clients that includes Environmental Defense Fund, Cotton LEADS and CertainTeed Insulation. She provides leadership and support for the account team members who manage the day-to-day processes for these clients. She contributes to strategic direction for each client and guides our creative efforts to ensure everything we do builds toward meeting – or exceeding – the client’s goals. Her ability to simultaneously see the big picture and pay close attention to the details helps her champion her clients’ needs and identify new growth opportunities for them.