Sustainable Packaging Provides a Key to Sustainable Growth


Few of us prize a garage full of garbage. And even fewer people like a landfill. Consumers are making their likes and dislikes known, and public sentiment around single-use packaging waste is driving real change — and growth! — in consumer-goods packaging.


More than half of the respondents to a 2020 McKinsey & Co. study say they are extremely or very concerned about the environmental impact of product packaging. What’s more, those same consumers are willing to put their money where their mouths are: The survey also found that 60%–70% would pay more for sustainable packaging.


The 2020 Global Buying Green Report, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group for packaging company Trivium, provided even stronger findings: “Environmentally friendly, recyclable packaging is important to more than two of three consumers.” They found 74% of respondents in the U.S., Europe and South America were willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, with 25% willing to pay an additional 10% or more.” The numbers don’t lie:

  • 53% of respondents are actively looking for recycling or sustainability information on packaging.

  • 59% are less likely to buy a product in harmful packaging.

  • 47% won’t buy products in packaging that is harmful to the environment.


With so much data supporting sustainable practices, no business can afford to ignore their increasing impact on your bottom line.


Sustainability drives sales

In case you think employing such sustainable practices will slow sales, the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) begs to differ. Its 2020 Sustainable Share Market Index™ found that sustainability-marketed products are responsible for more than half of the growth in consumer packaged goods (CPGs) from 2015 to 2019, and that this growth has continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Our analysis demonstrates that sustainability-marketed products enjoy a hefty premium, continue to grow faster than their conventional counterparts and contribute to over half of the growth to overall CPG. It’s clear that brand managers who are not pursuing sustainability strategies will be increasingly left behind,” said Randi Kronthal-Sacco, senior scholar, marketing and corporate outreach, at the NYU Stern CSB, who led the research initiative.


Who wants to be left behind? No one, that’s who.


Where packaging fits in

You can hardly employ a sustainability-based sales and marketing strategy without employing sustainable packaging. Single-use packaging is driving us toward an environmental cliff, and consumers are demanding the companies from which they purchase put on the brakes now.


Right-sizing packages is a smart way for companies to start their sustainability efforts. “The No. 1 customer complaint about e-commerce and internet retail customers is excessive packaging,” Hanko Kiessner, CEO of Packsize International, says. “It is not a secret anymore that 26% of the corrugated used in packaging today is unnecessary. There are 5.8 million tons of paper that are used to make boxes too large.”


But even right-sized packages are, by and large, single-use vehicles. Why not give up the corrugated cardboard altogether? Reusable shipping containers are taking their rightful place in the supply chain, enabling retailers to save money and please customers at the same time. In the exponentially growing world of meal kit delivery, for example, eco-friendly PackIt Fresh totes are setting the food-delivery segment on its head by offering reusable, fully freezable packaging that drastically reduces the amount of waste associated with these deliveries.


Consumers are sending a loud-and-clear message regarding sustainable practices, including packaging. As McKinsey writes: “Going forward, FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods, another term for CPG) companies and retailers will have to become more aggressive in their approach to addressing sustainable packaging in response to growing consumer awareness and increasing regulatory requirements.”