The New Face of ‘Green’ Packaging
I think the most recent Earth Day accurately reflected the diminishing widespread interest in the environment and sustainability. Green has changed and as many marketing experts warned us years ago, if the primary or only selling point of any product or service is its āeco-friendliness,” it is likely living on borrowed time, and it may have indeed already expired.
I believe this is a realistic and not necessarily pessimistic perspective and before anyone is offended, the people reading this article are not the problem. Those committed to sustainability are every bit as passionate as they have always been. The problem is the vast majority who do not care enough to be informed or concerned.
If Consumers Donāt Care, Why Has Some Industry Embraced Sustainability?
Two words: Cost reduction. There was a fleeting moment when many companies were gung-ho over sustainability because they felt it was a great way to increase market share and sales. āWe are greener becauseā¦ā became the competitive battle cry and it successfully attracted new customers. How many stuck around? No one is really sure but we do know many of those same consumers were turned off by false or exaggerated claims as well as in many cases, substantially higher prices.
However, many of those same companies realized that sustainability was simply smart from a cost standpoint and that very real, substantial savings could be had with minimal effort. Common sense approaches to reducing waste, recycling, re-using, using raw materials with recycled content, etc., delivered bottom line results whether the new green consumer continued buying or not. While disappointing on one hand, if you judge by the end result and do not question the motive, positive gains in sustainability continue to be made in many different areas.
The Impact on Green Packaging
Others undoubtedly have far more knowledgeable perspectives and differing opinions in crucial areas such as energy or technology but in my little slice of the world called secondary packaging, we see and respond to this changing green attitude on a daily basis. We have had to refocus on the benefits that our products or designs provide customers, in addition to the greener, more ecofriendly materials we urge them to use, in many cases solving problems that have nothing at all to do with the environment, climate change or anything āgreenā related.
When shipment damage is reduced from 12% to under 1%, the packaging purchaser is typically very grateful for the resulting material and shipping savings, as well as the improved customer satisfaction. The fact that it can be done with greener materials is great but the real motivator is solving the problem: green plus damage reduction.
When a shipperās box fails to stand out and their branding message is unclear, the need can be satisfied with a new graphic design that is printed on 100% recycled content corrugated board with eco-friendly, water based inks. However, the shipperās delight comes from the way their new custom-printed, branded packaging looks and their customerās experience is enhanced, not the obvious green gain: green plus branding.
A client complains of fast rising shipping costs. When a new design results in 6% lower shipping costs inbound and 14% lower shipping costs outbound, the fact that it is accomplished with a stronger, lighter weight board and a design that uses 20% fewer square inches, rarely matters to the client. The focus is on: green plus shipping cost reduction.
It is not that these companies donāt care about the environment. In fact many of them are good corporate citizens with meaningful sustainability initiatives. However, the next meeting agenda is much more likely to be focused on sales and profit performance, rather than greenhouse gasses or debating the size of the polar ice caps.
The green message? That probably remains the same for anyone still willing to make an effort to raise consciousness ā each one of us can still make a big difference by doing the little things the right way.
Dennis writes in the area of sustainable packaging with his work appearing in numerous blogs and magazines, including his own blog, Inside Sustainable Packaging. Dennis and his company provide custom eco friendly packaging solutions through Salazar Packaging and stock green packaging products via GlobeGuardProducts, which is the first internet store featuring all eco-friendly packaging supplies. Recently Dennis also made news by launching GreenPackagingGroup, which is a B2B packaging blog and directory for eco-minded buyers. He is president and co-founder of Salazar Packaging.
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