Sustainability has taken root as a major driver of change and innovation in the packaging sector, according to results of the 2010 “Sustainability in Packaging” survey. Nearly two-thirds of respondents say sustainable design has become an important factor in packaging decisions.
The fourth annual study, which was conducted in October by Packaging Digest and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, drew 630 responses from the gamut of packagers, material and machinery suppliers, consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) and retailers. The benchmarking surveys conducted over the course of four years show the evolution of sustainability in packaging from a point where packagers were asking, “What is sustainability?” to “How do we effectively measure our success?”
One of the primary changes has been in the growing awareness of the issues involved with sustainability in packaging. Today, 98% of the 2010 survey respondents say they are familiar with sustainability issues, versus 53% in the first survey performed in 2007. Those who said they were “not at all familiar” shrank from 10% of the audience to 2% during that same period.
This year, survey respondents once again gave Walmart the most votes for leadership in sustainability among retailers, while Procter & Gamble garnered the most tallies among CPGs. While an increasing number of packaging materials and equipment suppliers have begun offering more environmentally friendly products, their recognition factor is lower compared to the consumer-facing marketers of the retailing and CPG companies. Eighty-seven respondents wrote in that they felt no single supplier company demonstrated leadership in sustainability.
The study also reveals that nearly two-thirds of the respondents feel that their companies are placing increased importance on sustainability in their packaging, with 61% saying their customers also are placing more importance on sustainability improvements.
While recognizing the growing influence of sustainability in their companies’ packaging strategies, 81% of survey participants say too many companies are “greenwashing” their packaging by making false or unproven claims on its environmental benefits.
Three quarters of those surveyed say industry needs a set of defined sustainability metrics that can be used globally, and 60% say vendor scorecards or ratings are needed to compare packaging suppliers’ sustainability practices.