Consumer Awareness of Environmental Issues to Drive Sustainable Packaging Development

Consumer awareness of environmental issues and new material developments are the most important drivers in the development of sustainable packaging.

Smithers Pira, the worldwide authority on the packaging, paper and print industry supply chains, conducted a survey of key players across the global packaging value chain. 79% of respondents rated 'Increased exposure of consumers to environmental issues' and 'Advances in materials technology' as either a growth drive or major growth driver.

The Future of Sustainable Packaging to 2020: Convenience Vs the Environment analyses sustainable packaging initiatives from the consumers' perspective, over the next decade. It looks at what drives consumer demand for convenient packaging, as well as the demand for environmental preservation.

Sustainability refers to growth that meets the needs of the present, without robbing future generations of the raw materials or environmental quality that they will need to meet their own needs.

The packaging industry cannot help but become the sustainability focal point and primary benchmark for other industries. Not only is packaging a resource intensive sector in an increasingly resource constrained world, but tons of packaging waste are ending up in landfills daily. However, this challenge also provides an opportunity to gain competitive advantage through the development of an environmentally sustainable strategy without sacrificing the all-important needs of the consumer.

Making packaging friendly to the environment often conflicts with the traditional functions of packaging and more specifically with the consumers' demands for convenience.

To understand the impact of this important trend, Smithers Pira has published a major new study which explores the market for sustainable packaging and the conflict between the convenience and the environment.

Based on extensive primary research, the study identifies a range of important factors that suggest a greater interest in the sustainability agenda by the business world. Other factors, however, drive the consumer's choice when it comes to making a buying decision.

mega-trends on sustainable consumer packaging

Terms often used to describe sustainability, but confuse the environmentally conscious consumer.

Terms often used to describe sustainability, but confuse the environmentally conscious consumer.

(Source: Smithers Pira)

According to Smithers Pira, for the consumer, packaging represents convenience, safety, and comfort. For the business, packaging represents profits and survival. The gap between consumers' ethical attitude and their purchasing decisions concerning ecological products is important to the packaging industry. The main reasons for this gap are:

  • A lack of communication and understanding regarding the meaning of sustainability
  • Ambiguous promotions regarding these products and the abundance of "green-washed" products (those making false or misleading claims about environmental aspects)
  • Suspicion that sustainable packaging will result in a higher priced product or a product that has less protection and function than before
  • When asked what makes a packaging system environmentally friendly, shoppers around the world consistently offer a one-word answer - recycling.

Packaging producers and consumers often judge environmental friendliness from different information sources, so there are numerous opportunities for discrepancy. A unified vision of sustainable packaging that both the industry and consumers can agree upon is needed.

New packaging designs using environmentally friendly materials and processes are important to the concept of sustainability, but protecting the product from damage or spoilage may have a far greater environmental impact than the packaging itself. According to the study, the factors that must be considered under the umbrella of sustainability are:

  • Materials
  • Overall energy use and transport
  • Packaging waste minimisation
  • Reuse and source reduction
  • Recycling
  • Biodegradability and composting
  • Waste-to-energy conversion
  • Retail and consumer value.

how packaging designers meet convenience and environmental demands

In the future, Smithers Pira expects the environmental optimisation of packaging will be conducted by more educated and environmentally conscious people as well as by computer programs specifically designed for the task.

The Future of Sustainable Packaging To 2020: Convenience Vs the Environment is available now for £3,750 more information, contact Stephen Hill on +44 (0) 1372 802 025 or email Stephen.