Ditch sustainable packaging and embrace resource efficiency

28 Jul 2022
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James Butcher
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A fresh perspective on sustainable packaging

I can sense the initial scepticism as to why even blog on this subject; everyone understands the case for sustainable packaging, I hear you thinking to yourself. Whether it be the war on plastics, the lasting impact of the Blue Planet series, or the much discussed impact of plastic tax and extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation – the need for more sustainable packaging is undisputable.

Unfortunately, this is not enough for some companies. Many brands and retailers acknowledged that the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains delayed or distracted their sustainability initiatives. This has continued, alongside growing economic concerns and the war in Ukraine.

So, I want to make a different case for more sustainable packaging: your bottom line!

Small changes go a long way

More sustainable packaging doesn’t always have to be a radical switch from one pack type to another. It can be as simple as reducing the weight of board in a cardboard carton. The effects of this are threefold; you need less material, which in turn reduces freight, which both go hand in hand with reducing costs.

Less materials used ➡️ reduced energy consumption ➡️ reduced cost

You don’t need to radically alter production lines or wait for a merchandising wave to make packaging a product more environmentally friendly. For example, removing a plastic window from a cardboard carton makes a pack more sustainable because it is now more recyclable as a single material. It lessens the extended producer responsibility (EPR) and makes it much easier for consumers to dispose of packaging correctly. In this case, removing the plastic also happens to be the cheaper option, potentially reducing packaging costs by 10% and eliminating plastic tax costs.

Change the narrative

I want to encourage people to reframe sustainability projects around the board table as ‘resource efficiency’. The term was more commonly used around 15 years ago but has since become less used, as the global focus on sustainability has increased. This is especially ironic since resource efficiency (by nature) goes hand in hand with being more sustainable, but this correlation can be overlooked or forgotten. But looking at sustainability initiatives (such as packaging) through the lens of resource efficiency enables businesses to be more pragmatic about their approach to finding solutions .

Embrace sustainability and resource efficiency to thrive in future volatility

Economic predictions vary widely but most agree that there are still challenging times ahead, and will most likely come in the form of inflation, high energy costs, and continued supply chain disruption. We cannot afford to allow this to derail sustainability initiatives and we live in a world where it is absolutely vital that we are efficient with resources. This is why I recommend a change in narrative. It is apparent that tough decisions are being made in the board room which result in many sustainability projects being underfunded. A resource efficiency project, however, has a direct ROI as well as a positive impact on your bottom line (not to mention your triple bottom line).

So what is the case for more sustainable packaging? It is simple: People, Planet, Profit.

Collaboration nurtures opportunities to innovate

I have mentioned a couple of examples of how small changes can make a huge difference to the environmental impact of a piece of packaging. These ideas are born out of businesses collaborating effectively with their packaging suppliers. This begins with engaging and collecting data from suppliers to create comprehensive and up-to-date bills of packaging materials (BOPM), identifying areas of improvement and leveraging expertise from within the supply chain to pave the way for new ideas.

Make a difference to your packaging with the help of our six-step process and platform.

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