Four New Year’s Resolutions for Greener CPGs
As 2011 draws to a close and we begin to shift our focus to the coming year, it is inevitable that there will be talk of New Yearâ€™s resolutions, and how we plan to build on our accomplishments in 2012. If youâ€™re working for or with a company that occupies the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space, your goals for 2012 may be loftier than hitting the gym or drinking enough water. If your company is interested in implementing new sustainability initiatives this year, your resolutions are likely more concerned with environmental health and efficiency.
Itâ€™s one thing to pledge more sustainable practices in the New Year, but what specific items can your company take action on to ensure that this goal comes to fruition? My company, The Strive Group, works with CPGs and their retail partners at a variety of points in their merchandising supply chain and has identified several areas where key changes can have a far-reaching sustainable impact.
While any sustainability restructuring plan takes significant preparation to be executed properly, and should not be undertaken without a long-term strategy in place, the below tips can help your company get started for a year of sustainable success.Â
Cut down on materials
One of the easiest ways for CPGs to decrease their environmental impact is by reducing the amount of materials used to create and market their product. For many of the companies that we work with, this means reducing product packaging as well as materials used at the point of merchandise display. While complex and eye-catching retail displays can be an excellent way to attract consumer attention and drive product sales, there are ways to produce visually compelling displays that are also environmentally friendly.
The important thing to remember when designing retail displays, or product packaging, in bulk is that small changes can have a large impact. For example, depending how many units are being produced, a materials savings of 1-2 square foot per piece can add up quickly for an overall product of several hundred or thousand pieces.Â
Use environmentally conscious materials
Reducing the amount of materials used is only half the battle for CPGs. The real challenge is making a commitment to using quality, sustainable materials. For many companies, a strong starting point is pledging to use mostly, and in some cases all, recycled materials. This can go beyond simple cardboard or corrugated packaging and can extend to shrink-wrapping and even packing materials.
In addition to conserving natural resources, using recycled materials ensures that useful items are diverted from landfills. Increasing consumer demand for recycled packaging may also make your product more attractive to customers.
Increase the life cycle of products and displays
For CPGs, products and displays frequently get the special treatment around major holidays or seasonal change.Â While this may be an effective strategy for aligning your brand with consumer interest, keeping your messaging seasonally fresh or generating excitement around new product launches, using time-sensitive creative elements can also shorten a productâ€™s shelf life.
One way to manage wasted materials in this situation is to keep product packaging traditional, and instead invest is seasonal or new product-specific displays. New technologies in retail display manufacturing have enabled CPGs and suppliers to create display units that can be easily adapted by utilizing two-sided materials or pieces that can easily be added or removed to ensure that units remain seasonally relevant and promote the most recently-launched products without needing to be fully replaced.
Manage transportation effectively
Once your product has been packaged environmentally-consciously and efficiently, the next and final step in the process is getting it into the retail space without wasting key resources like fuel and energy. While the path that a product takes from production, to fulfillment, to stores has become increasingly complex, working with a single vendor to manage the integrated merchandising supply chain process can ensure that the entire route is mapped efficiently. When one vendor has visibility over all of the necessary steps, the entire process becomes significantly leaner.
Beyond the environmental benefits resulting from this model, there are obvious benefits for CPGs as well. Not only can companies reduce or eliminate wasted resources, they can better control their inventory, increase their speed-to-market and also gain keener insight into their overall costs.
The important thing to remember when identifying your companyâ€™s resolutions and goals for the New Year is that even the smallest steps can have a large impact in affecting your overall environmental impact. The worst reason to not launch a sustainability initiative is for fear that it is too great of an undertaking. Any one of these small changes can bring your company closer to achieving greater sustainability in 2012 and beyond.
Jeff Sharfstein is president and CEO of The Strive Group. The Strive Group is comprised of four operating entities that design, manufacture and pack-out point of purchase displays for major consumer products companies. A fifth entity, Strive Logistics, LLC, provides transportation solutions to display customers and others. Jeff Sharfstein began his business career with Pride Container Corporation, a company founded by the Sharfstein family, in 1968. He left in 1990 to start World Distribution Group (now Strive Logistics) and returned to Pride Container Corporation as its president in 1997.
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