Opportunities for Brands to Make Packaging More Sustainable

November 2, 2018

CPG brands have two major audiences, consumers and retailers. And both expect manufacturers to find a more environmentally friendly way to package goods. Of course, this is a positive trend that makes practical sense for business and the planet and also means that companies have some work ahead of them.

CPG brand marketers should not “greenwash” packaging — a corporate commitment to sustainability means finding a better way to do business at every level. Retailers have set packaging standards for suppliers to meet in the short-term, though. Brands have to take immediate action to hit those numbers, but should do more than the bare minimum.

What CPG brands need to know

Sustainable packaging is a means to its own end and part of a bigger picture. It is not a silver bullet to increase sales or a public relations box to check. It’s a point of pride, and not always a differentiator — everyone in the industry is in the same boat and in this initiative together. While that’s good news, what makes sense for one brand won’t necessarily work for everyone.

Packaging can be recyclable and/or recycled, compostable or biodegradable. It can save energy, conserve water, be reusable — companies have options. There are affordable yet high quality solutions can cut logistics cost while helping boost sales. Knowing which choice is best for a particular brand takes more than just research.

To consider before committing to one sustainable packaging option:

  • Branding — Instead of asking how a brand fits into sustainability initiatives, tell the story of how sustainability works naturally with brand values and priorities. With the right perspective, environmental stewardship should be a natural fit for any company. The packaging itself is only one place to tell that story — build on it across marketing channels.
  • Measurement — Retailers have already set standards for manufacturers, but there’s always more CPG companies can do. Corporate responsibility should support improved packaging, and help reduce the overall carbon footprint. Factor savings on energy, shipping, materials and other measurable KPIs into program goals — and the return on investment should grow as a result.
  • Buy-in — Make sure the entire company is on the same page. Changes will affect marketing, sales, procurement, packaging designers, product managers, logistics and others. Get input from each group to guide sustainability efforts, including early consensus at the c-level.
  • Customers — Research what end-users want in a sustainability initiative. Listen on social media, invite ideas, study trends and test green solutions with those who matter most. Take consumer insights seriously, and prepare a communications plan for any eventuality.

In order to find solutions that benefit everyone, pay attention to experts in packaging best practices, sustainability initiatives, consumer trends and retail expectations. Governments and associations also post regulations that will take effect across the globe in the coming years. Quad experts can guide companies to meet or exceed standards with strategy, design and implementation. In the meantime, it’s easy for all of us to reduce, reuse and recycle in everyday life.