Your Customers Want Sustainable Packaging

Pandemic-induced buying has fueled crazy growth in e-commerce, and with that comes an exponential increase in the packaging that carries those orders. Nine months into this new reality, consumers are taking a moment to breathe and assess what their new shopping habits are doing to the world around them. And many are not liking what they see.  


McKinsey & Co. recently published results of a global survey that looked at consumers’ attitudes toward sustainable packaging: 55% of U.S survey respondents reported they are extremely or very concerned about the environmental impact of product packaging.


The CGS 2019 U.S. Consumer Sustainability Survey revealed that more than two-thirds of respondents consider sustainability when making a purchase and are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Gen Z shoppers led the way, being more likely to purchase, pay more and stay loyal to brands with sustainable options.


And a Nielsen study done in 2018 found that nearly half of U.S. consumers would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact. Nielson predicted these sustainability minded shoppers would increase their spending by $14 million–$22 million by 2021 — a prediction made before the pandemic raised the roof on e-commerce.


“End consumers have made their voices heard and have demanded that providers focus on waste and recyclability of the e-commerce packages they receive,” Alicemarie Geoffrion, vice president of packaging operations for DHL Supply Chain, North America, writes for Logistics Management. “Ship your product in a box that seems too big, and you’re sure to hear about it from customers on social media. … Move to a poly bag solution to reduce shipping costs, and face criticism not only from end consumers for using non-recyclable materials, but also from in-house marketers for diminishing their brand image. … It is no surprise why providers and retailers feel like they are facing a no-win situation when considering changes to e-commerce packaging.”


In the trip from no-win to win-win, sustainable packaging is a key force driving a supply-chain redux.


But what, exactly, is meant by “sustainable packaging”? The Sustainable Packaging Coalition defines the term with eight criteria. Sustainable packaging:

1.     Is beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its lifecycle

2.     Meets market criteria for performance and cost

3.     Is sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy

4.     Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials

5.     Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices

6.     Is made from materials healthy throughout the lifecycle

7.     Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy

8.     Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycles


“As the waste from more and more deliveries continues to increase, climbing alongside the guilt felt by sustainability-minded Americans, shippers need to adapt,” says Melissa Keiling, founder of PackIt Fresh reusable, freezable totes. “It’s crystal-clear: Companies that take the lead in addressing these environmental issues will attract customers who care about the planet.”


With that number of caring customers growing by the minute, companies can’t afford to ignore them.