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Eco-friendly Packaging

The benefits to brands

As the planet hots up, so does the conversation around sustainable packaging. But it’s not just a case of ensuring that packs can be easily recycled – I say easily because people are inherently lazy and changing people’s recycling behaviour is extremely challenging (sadly, saving the planet isn’t high on the list when effort applies). So, the task falls to brand owners to ensure that the packs they put into the world meet our ever-increasing sustainable demands.

Those that get it right gain a significant competitive advantage resulting from the feel-good factor, which fosters loyalty and more powerfully, advocacy. The simple psychology is that we all want to feel a little bit better about being voracious consumers. But few of us are willing to fully commit to a green lifestyle, especially one that compromises convenience – and therein lies the tension.

One brand getting it right is Finisterre, brought to my attention by a friend who waxes lyrical (advocacy) about the brand that he’s been with for some years (loyalty). So, after reading up on their impressive sustainable creds, I bought a pair of shorts online. They arrived in a paper bag – tick. Inside the paper delivery pack was a plastic bag. My initial sceptical scoff gave way to surprise and delight. The plastic bags they use is made from an innovative polymer material that dissolves in water, is non-toxic and marine safe.

Contrast that with a very well-known online food courier service. Every rider (over 110,000 and counting) is issued their ‘uniform’ in several non-recyclable plastic bags. Add to the fact that they’re delivering meat-based food, on or in petrol and diesel vehicles, and the eCommerce brand in question scores terribly on the green-o-meter.

But let’s end on a high. There’s a brand that probably tops the scale for effort and intent when it comes to sustainable considerations in packaging. Carlsberg. A few years ago, they launched Snap Pack, an innovative solution to reduce (up to) 76% plastic in the form of those ‘turtle murdering’ plastic rings found on six-packs. Instead of the offending articles, glue dots stick the cans together. At the same time, they launched their Greener Green ink – as sod’s law has it, green ink is the least environmentally friendly. A challenge considering it’s also Carlsberg’s iconic brand colour. Carlsberg’s Greener Green is Cradle to Cradle Certified. Their mission to substantiate why they are probably the best beer in the world is underpinned by such initiatives and innovations. And the social media frenzy that followed is evidence enough that this type of activity from brands is just the ticket, provided that it aligns with the values of the brand, which in Carlsberg’s case, it most definitely does. This is just the tip of the iceberg for one of the world’s most sustainably innovative brands, both on and offline.

And it’s fair to assume that another beer giant, Molson Coors, has been inspired by the Danish brewer’s bold move. Molson Coors announced their pop-up experience ‘Plastic-Free Future Mart’ in Brooklyn, New York this week ­– signalling their intent to move to fully recyclable and sustainably sourced cardboard carriers – making it the largest beer brand in North America to cut out the use of plastic rings.

Such moves by global household name brands force the sustainability issue higher up the agenda for other businesses and their brands. A competitive edge exists for those that jump early with meaningful sustainable solutions that align with their values, rather than waiting to be pushed into action. A sobering thought for the likes of Amazon, let’s hope.

Interested? Read more on the subject in The Times' Raconteur article, ‘Why eco-friendly brands can be profit friendly’.

Posted by

Spencer Buck 6th Apr 2022