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).

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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!

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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.”

A Period of Change

Once upon a time, feminine hygiene was a topic simply not mentioned in polite society – and options were limited to an aisle of single-use products. Now, times are changing, and the options have grown. What once seemed like a segment of the consumer packaged goods industry impervious to change is now undergoing profound transformation. New, reusable choices are flooding the market – choices that are better for the environment and, in most cases, work better too. Fifty-nine percent of women have used or considered using them – what will that do to your business?

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About the Author

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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