Happy mature woman looking at product at grocery store. Smiling hispanic woman shopping in supermarket and reading product information. Costumer buying food at the market.

By Charles Haverfield, CEO, US Packaging & Wrapping

In today’s marketplace, consumer choices transcend the mere considerations of taste or convenience. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns increasingly influence purchasing decisions.

This preference has translated into tangible growth, with products embracing these values experiencing a notable 1.7 percentage point increase in the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) compared to those that don’t.

Brands that don’t incorporate ESG practices at every stage of the business can expect to lose out — 84% of consumers admit that unsustainable environmental practices would alienate them from a company, meaning environmentally-friendly packaging that is responsibility sourced should be a top priority.

In this discussion, I aim to delve into the pivotal role of packaging in addressing consumer apprehensions and fostering ethical business practices for the packaging industry.

Consumer expectations and ethical concerns

Brands often fall short in meeting consumer expectations, primarily due to deceptive labeling and inaccurate information. False or misleading claims about a product’s attributes or benefits can create unrealistic expectations and erode trust. Similarly, inadequate labeling regarding allergens or cultural symbols risks misinforming consumers and perpetuating stereotypes.

Furthermore, limited availability or higher costs of sustainable packaging options restrict consumers’ access to environmentally responsible products. This, coupled with the environmental hazards posed by certain packaging materials, compromises consumer safety and environmental health.

Addressing environmental impact

Minimizing the negative environmental impact of packaging requires multifaceted strategies. Companies can start by innovating packaging design techniques to reduce material usage and adopt lightweight materials. Source reduction and right-sizing packaging can eliminate unnecessary materials and enhance product fit.

Promoting the use of environmentally friendly materials like recycled content or biodegradable alternatives reduces reliance on virgin resources and minimizes environmental footprints. Investing in recycling infrastructure and facilities ensures proper recycling and recovery of packaging materials, while transitioning to a circular economy model encourages reuse and recycling at the end of the product life cycle.

Moreover, brands can communicate their sustainable initiatives to consumers, fostering transparency and trust. Examples such as Mars’ commitment to Fair Trade Certified cocoa demonstrate such efforts, enhancing consumer awareness and loyalty.

Addressing social impact

Packaging choices can exacerbate socioeconomic disparities and compromise labor rights within the supply chain. Evaluating the cost implications of sustainable options and exploring alternative materials can bridge the affordability gap while promoting sustainable consumption habits.

Implementing comprehensive supplier codes of conduct and prioritizing workplace safety are imperative for ethical business practices. Promoting transparency and traceability within the supply chain enhances accountability and mitigates labor-related risks.

Consumers have the right to know the social and environmental impacts associated with products and packaging. Companies should prioritize transparency and responsibility throughout the product lifecycle, avoiding greenwashing and fostering consumer trust.

Embracing governance principles

Strong corporate governance ensures accountability, transparency, and responsible decision-making in packaging practices. Implementing policies, procedures, and standards to ensure responsible sourcing, design, usage, and disposal of packaging materials is crucial.

Staying informed about regulations and standards regarding packaging materials is essential for compliance. Establishing design standards that prioritize minimalism, efficiency, and recyclability fosters responsible packaging practices.

Collaboration with packaging suppliers and stakeholders enhances sustainability practices and transparency throughout the supply chain. Transparency and accountability in ESG reporting build credibility and trust among stakeholders, while continuous monitoring and assessment facilitate progress toward sustainability goals.

Measuring and reporting ESG impact

Quantifying and communicating the impact of ESG efforts is essential for demonstrating commitment to sustainability. Establishing meaningful KPIs and robust data management systems ensure effective tracking and management of ESG performance.

Sustainability reporting frameworks like GRI and SASB standardize reporting, providing transparent and comparable information to stakeholders. Continuous improvement and external verification enhance credibility and trustworthiness in ESG reporting.

By adhering to these principles, businesses can effectively measure and report their ESG impact in packaging, fostering a more sustainable future while nurturing consumer trust and environmental responsibility.

Charles HeadshotFor over a decade, Charles Haverfield has led US Packaging & Wrapping from a customer-driven approach ensuring employees and management understand how to identify needs before and after a purchase.

With a wealth of experience in the industry, Charles consistently delivers high-quality packaging implementation to align with clients’ goals and market demands, which effectively increase efficiencies while lowering costs.

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