Sustainability has been top of mind for most consumers for the past few years, causing businesses across the globe to implement additional eco-friendly practices – particularly in product packaging.
As time moves on from the outbreak of COVID-19, sustainability pressure is building once again. A 2023 survey conducted by McKinsey & Company found that the environmental impact of product packaging is the second most important factor that impacts consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Manufacturers and retailers of fast-moving consumer goods continue to innovate new packaging formats to improve circularity, particularly focusing on recycled content such as post-consumer resin. These innovations come as players seek to deliver on their own sustainability commitments and address consumer expectations, nongovernmental organization voices and new packaging regulations.
Improving Consumer Opinion Through Sustainability
Packsize, a provider of sustainable packaging solutions, also conducted a survey to get feedback from shoppers on their sustainability concerns.
“Consumers and employees are impressing upon companies that sustainability must be a priority,” Rod Gallaway, CEO of Packsize, says. “We did a customer survey and feedback showed consumers are looking for companies that take care of the planet. Outside investors are increasingly requiring ESG and sustainability plans to demonstrate companies’ intentions for reducing environmental impact, which ultimately improves consumer opinions. Sustainability has always been important, but only recently has it become a boardroom topic.”
The urgency of providing customers with more sustainable options has increased with the advent of the Inflation Reduction Act and the forthcoming Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive out of the EU. Gallaway notes that it’s also likely we’ll see an increase in the number of states adopting stronger laws to regulate wasteful packaging, which will further affect retailers, especially in e-commerce.
2024 Sustainable Packaging Trends
As with customers, Gallaway says that next year, we’ll see companies talking more about a circular economy rooted in reusable materials and sustainable practices, as well as new ideas being put forward about how to resolve these issues.
“Big companies like Walmart and Amazon will lead the move to lightweight corrugate, which is more prevalent around the globe. The demand for use of recycled materials will continue. Paper will continue to push plastic out, and I think we could eventually see a complete phasing out of plastic, driven in part by inflation,” Gallaway says.
Companies are also testing a variety of different materials, trying to figure out what works and what consumers are willing to pay for. Gallaway suggests that we’ll continue to see the no-packaging trend that Amazon is currently testing, although it may ultimately not have longevity, since it’s difficult to handle different SKUs on a one-off basis.
“Perhaps the biggest megatrend we can expect to see is the expansion of personalization, which will go beyond personalizing the box itself to consumers having more choice and control over the whole delivery experience, with various add-ons that can be requested for a fee, such as the type of packaging their items arrive in,” Gallaway says.
How Brands Can Be More Sustainable With Their Packaging
Eco-friendly packaging doesn’t have to be expensive, according to Gallaway. Right-sized packaging can even save you money.
“Brands can easily improve their sustainability by choosing an automated right-sized packaging solution, which greatly reduces cardboard waste and the need for plastic fillers to stabilize package contents in a too-large box,” says Gallaway. “Right-sizing can also have a substantive impact on delivery efficiency. Transportation emissions are arguably the most unsustainable part of the packaging and shipping process. The ability to stably fit more boxes on each truck simply reduces the number of trucks on the road, and that can make a big difference in terms of improving a company’s overall carbon footprint.”
Customers care greatly on whether or not the product they are buying has sustainable packaging. The public is growing more aware of efforts toward a circular economy, and they want to see it reflected in their own experience of unboxing their purchases.
Purchasing sustainable packaging for your products can not only increase customer loyalty, but you can also help the planet in the long run.