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 “eco-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 Don’t 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. “We are greener because…” 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 “green” 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.