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How sustainable packaging can impact sales

10 Mar 2022 —
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Consumers increasingly ask for both eco-friendly packaging solutions and a better customer experience. This presents the packaging industry with unique challenges.

Consumers increasingly ask for both eco-friendly packaging solutions and a better customer experience. This presents the packaging industry with unique challenges.

What are the impacts of eco-friendly packaging?

Eco-responsible packaging must consider environmental impacts across the whole packaging life cycle and seek to minimise harmful impacts on human health and the environment. Reducing the overall size and weight of packaging, and shipping in right sized boxes should be at the core of a sustainable packaging strategy, along with the selection of eco-friendly materials. Innovations in sustainable packaging can also generate supply chain efficiencies.

Facing new customer expectations


According to a survey (commissioned through IFOP, March 2021), 79% of Antalis customers consider environmental friendliness of packaging products to be ‘important’ or ‘very important’. 62% are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly packaging products, with companies involved in CSR considered to be ahead of the curve.

Although price remains the key buying criterion for Antalis customers, environment comes joint second with the primary function of a packaging, i.e. its functionality!  This demonstrates the importance of this aspect for customers.

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Consumer needs and concerns are growing


Consumers are becoming ever more environmentally conscious. They demand companies find sustainable solutions with reduced waste and carbon footprint. 42% of consumers said packaging made from recycled or sustainable materials was crucial in their everyday purchase habits (Globalwebindex 2019).

What’s more, regulators, NGOs and consumers are putting pressure on companies to find sustainable solutions to mitigate resource depletion and climate change. 55% of US respondents (McKinsey & Company survey) in October 2020 report that they are ‘extremely’ or ‘very concerned’ about the environmental impact of product packaging. Across all end-use segments, 60 to 70% of consumers said they would pay more for sustainable packaging; 52% of consumers said they would buy more products with sustainable packaging if those products didn’t cost more than conventionally packaged ones.

Building a better brand experience


Basic purchasing criteria and environmental challenges are now linked, as empty space and excess packaging material frustrate consumers and create a negative brand experience. With the increase in online shopping since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, addressing the environmental cost of packaging has become a priority for many businesses. For example, French fashion e-retailer, Sezane now makes 100% of its shipping boxes from recycled cardboard, and they can be sent back for returns or used as decorative boxes at home. The company is also in the process of streamlining its boxes by eliminating unnecessary labels and excess wrapping and adapting their size and shape to best fit the items they are designed to hold.

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As a result of the pandemic, the importance of sustainable packaging solutions has become impossible to ignore. With non-essential retail shut for a period of time, home deliveries became increasingly popular, resulting in much more packaging to be sorted and recycled. At the same time, consumers require a satisfying unboxing experience when they shop at home. 

Brands must respond to these conflicting requirements by finding smart and eco-friendly packaging solutions. Increasingly aware of environmental issues surrounding waste and packaging, over two thirds of consumers say they would pay more for packaging which had less impact on the environment . According to the American Marketing Association, people also recycle more when they know what recycled waste is turned into. In the UK, 50% of consumers have already switched brands because of concerns about packaging1. It is therefore vital for innovative e-commerce brands to include customer involvement and expectation in their business plan.

Eco-friendly packaging from beginning to end


Designing and producing eco-friendly packaging is not enough. To be fully sustainable, its end of life must also be considered. This is why brands have to think about the effective recyclability of their products. Nespresso recycling began in the UK over 10 years ago. Customers can have their used coffee capsules collected, so that coffee grounds and aluminum can be separated for their next life.

Packaging is recyclable when it can be collected, processed and returned to use in the form of raw materials or goods. The recyclability of packaging depends on its nature and composition.

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To integrate packaging into a circular supply chain, consider focusing on mono-materials, which may be easier to recycle, as well as biodegradable, plant-based and other eco-friendly alternatives. Almost any material is biodegradable, but some may take decades or even centuries to degrade and may not be environmentally friendly.

So, if you wish your packaging to end its life as green as it began, speak with CSR experts to get accurate recycling information, to make sure your packaging will be recycled effectively: collected, sent to a recovery facility to be sorted, cleaned, then processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing, as raw materials would be.

A step towards responsible consumption


Eco-friendly and smart packaging solutions create a better customer experience and reduce the carbon footprint of packing, shipping and delivery for conventional brands and e-commerce retailers. With growing awareness among companies and consumers of the importance of sustainable green packaging alternatives, the key to meeting environmental targets will include brands actively educating and supporting consumers on responsible use and disposal of packaging, in order to ensure frustration-free eco-friendly packaging.


[1] McKinsey survey conducted between April 14 and April 22, 2020, across 2,004 German and UK consumers aged 18 and older


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