Sustainability and eco-friendliness have become a topic that no one should ignore. Even though the widespread discussion of this topic is new, this issue is not new. From a packaging perspective, there has always been this drive to manufacture kinder packaging materials for the planet Earth.
What is different about sustainable custom boxes over a couple of years is the urgency with which this topic is being discussed. It could partially be credited to what people are calling, the ‘Attenborough effect,’ an influencing English figure who has been elevating this issue to a new level altogether. In the public conscience, it has created emotive imagery of our oceans choking on plastic.
Some people would argue that there has been an oversimplification of this issue by creating a perspective of ‘all plastic is bad.’ While this could be misleading and wrong, only a very few people would argue that the approach to sustainable packaging is a terrible thing.
One question that always creates an aura of intrigue is who exactly owns this agenda item? Without any doubt, brand owners, retailers, governments, and on a higher level, consumers share this responsibility of protecting the environment on a minor scale and the planet on an upper range.
Now, as the awareness and political correctness’ of consumers are on the rise, companies, and governments are redefining their 2025 sustainability pledges. Similarly, governments are presenting higher than ever legislations on sustainability, and eventually, companies are carrying and executing the orders.
Very few can question the intentions of these measures, but almost everyone understands that all these measurements are not enough. There has to be more than these ‘forced’ decisions, and there should be a higher level of responsibility realization in the corporate world.
Below are a few themes related to this discussion of sustainable packaging and how we can succeed in realizing this dream.
Say it & Do it like you mean it.
The public has always suspected the intentions of big companies in going eco-friendly. This suspicion is not entirely wrong or inaccurate because most of the time, big companies have smacked of tokenism instead of putting in a genuine effort. They have performed it as a box-ticking exercise and to be on the right side of political correctness. Instead of doing it for its real purpose.
Since their intention hasn’t been on the spot, they have mostly ‘greenwashed’ their customers by exaggerating the efforts they’re putting in and by misrepresenting the benefits to the environment from their packaging.
As previously discussed, consumers are more aware now than they were a decade ago. Big companies should approach eco-friendly packaging, not as something’ nice to have,’ but as something real.
Facts and Fiction.
We acknowledge that sustainability is being discussed on a higher level now. However, it does not necessarily mean that whatever our idea of sustainability is, it is correct. There are so many fictions and miscalculations regarding what we should be actually doing.
Many channels are producing documentaries and movies on durable and eco-friendly food packaging, etc. Though not by design, the key takeaway message from these videos is that all plastics are harmful. It also gives the impression that everything that can not be recycled is going to choke our oceans. So, there is also a role to be played by movies and documentary
producers here. They have to make sure that what message they want to convey and how well they are conveying it.
While we all agree that plastics are no good, there are so many cases in which the overall impact of plastic packaging is less harmful than any of its substitutes. Similarly, there is another oversimplification of glass and aluminum being universally useful, which is not always true.
Break it to fix it.
Closely linked to the ‘greenwashing’ is the idea that we might make incremental changes that will bring about a total end to the environmental crisis. This idea is very outdated, and we need to think of other possible ways out. It is vital to bring about a complete change in the way we look at the packaging.
There has to be a more disruptive change. From the perspective of packaging, we have to think beyond the box of recycling material. We need to think of new models that do not even consider the packaging in the first place. There is one such model from the Loop, which brings up the idea of packaging-less delivery.
Tomorrow people and how can we do it?
Packaging producers need to think of themselves in the head of the people of tomorrow. Their approach towards the packaging will be very different from the current generation. Early engagement with the growing demographics of the coming generations is imperative.
So, it is more than building an effective e-commerce strategy. As crucial as it is, technology will keep evolving and will provide different packaging and marketing alternatives. In the long run, only those solutions will survive that sit up well with tomorrow’s people.
Of course, together, we are stronger. It is hard to imagine one party doing it all itself and gaining any significant success. Governments, industries, and we, the people, have to do it in partnership to get the result that we want.
Leading players around the supply chain need to collaborate better with each other. Similarly, the conversation needs to involve more key groups in it. Only then can we succeed in gaining the long-term preservation of the environment.