Sustainable developments shaping the future of packaging.

Consumer demand for sustainable goods and services is on the rise across the globe. Looking to reduce their environmental footprint, savvy shoppers are driving environmentally beneficial innovation in established businesses and start-ups alike. From small changes such as reducing single-use plastic usage, to wider movements such as the reshoring of supply chains, business leaders across virtually every industry are increasingly needing to make sustainable changes to meet heightened demand from consumers.

The demand for business sustainability is, more often than not, driven by consumers’ desire to make a change for the better in their own lives. PwC’s 2020 consumer insights survey revealed that 69% of consumers report they are taking better care of their physical health, 63% report they are taking better care of their diet and 45% avoid the use of plastic wherever possible. Consumers want to support brands who are introducing sustainability at every step along the supply chain, with more people choosing products that are not only sustainably produced and manufactured, but are also delivered in environmentally friendly packaging. This isn’t a small segment of the population, either – according to McKinsey, as many as 79% of consumers include sustainable packaging in their purchase decisions.

While Europe and the US are leading the push for sustainability, the green wave is spreading across Asia, too. A 2020 study by GlobeScan found that 75% of Asian consumers want to “significantly lessen their environmental footprint”, citing climate change and air pollution as the most serious current global issues after COVID-19. With consumer awareness of packaging waste driving change, brands are having to quickly adapt and innovate. In addition, government regulations across the globe are tightening, meaning some brands will soon have no choice but to change the way they do things. Australia is targeting 100% of all packaging to be recyclable, compostable, or reusable. Canada meanwhile is working to implement the Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, which was passed in 2018 with a 2030 goal. Elsewhere, the EU is implementing a ban on selected single-use plastics, while the United States are introducing bills around reducing single-use packaging waste and increasing recycling.

While in the past companies turned to quick wins to achieve sustainability goals, such as minimizing size and weight to reduce emissions from logistic processes, upstream material innovation is now allowing brands to think outside the box when it comes to their packaging. Many businesses are beginning to make use of more environmentally friendly materials including FSC recycled paper, plant-based plastic or 100% compostable corn starch materials. With rapid innovation underway in the packaging materials sector, brands seeking more sustainable solutions should be working closely with their packaging partners to determine how they can reduce the environmental impact of their packaging while maintaining a high-quality, on-brand and cost-effective model.

Connected packaging is another innovation revolutionizing the industry, increasing information availability by turning product packaging into interactive information channels using code generation, digital printing and data management. Connected packaging can unlock new opportunities for consumers to gather more value from packaging than ever before, such as product protection and functionality, supply chain transparency or about the composition and recyclability of the product and packaging itself.

Other brands may look to circular delivery models to have a more complete view over what happens to their product’s packaging at its end-of-life. TerraCycle, the waste-eliminating social enterprise, works with brands to eliminate single-use packaging waste, allowing an easy way for consumers to send back their hard-to-recycle waste which the business will then recycle and reuse. Similarly, cosmetics retailer M.A.C. incentivizes consumers to return their empty containers to the store for recycling with their Back-to-M.A.C program which offers free product in exchange for a certain number of returned containers. This type of innovation promotes not only sustainability but also brand loyalty, while placing sustainability at the forefront of their operations.

By examining the end-to-end supply chain, we understand the numerous benefits that sustainable developments in the packaging sector can bring. With conscious living on the rise, consumers are holding the brands they interact with to increasingly high standards when it comes to sustainable practices. Business leaders across all sectors should be scrutinizing their packaging practices and reassessing how they can increase sustainability and reduce waste throughout their supply chains.

At Tag, our global team of sourcing experts are working to drive positive change for our clients, suppliers and our own organization. Our strategic collaborations with many of the global leaders in the packaging sector enable us to partner with retail brands to help them achieve their sustainability goals, identifying and sourcing materials that are environmentally friendly, socially responsible and economically viable.