In an era where environmental consciousness is rapidly gaining momentum, consumers are demanding greater sustainability from the products they purchase. Recognising the urgent need to reduce their carbon footprint and the broader ecological impacts of their products, global brands are actively re-evaluating their packaging practices.
Here we explore the innovative strategies employed by these brands to make their packaging more sustainable, and meaningfully contribute to a greener future.
One of the most significant ways global brands are revolutionising packaging is through material innovation. Traditional packaging materials like plastic are being replaced with eco-friendly alternatives such as compostable materials like paper, biodegradable plastics, and plant-based packaging. Companies are also exploring innovative solutions like mushroom-based packaging, seaweed-based materials, and even edible packaging, reducing waste and promoting a circular economy.
Recycling, Upcycling Initiatives
Global brands are actively participating in recycling and upcycling initiatives, aiming to minimise waste and extend the lifecycle of packaging materials. Many companies have introduced programs that encourage consumers to return used packaging for recycling, creating a closed-loop system.
In the UK, Tesco led the way by providing information and labelling on packaging to guide customers on responsible disposal and recycling, supporting this in-store too. They also communicate their packaging reduction initiatives to raise awareness among customers, encouraging them to make more sustainable choices at key purchase points along the customer journey.
Additionally, brands are embracing upcycling by using recycled materials in their packaging or repurposing packaging waste to create new products, showcasing their commitment to sustainability.
This New Era Is Evolving
The packaging industry has always been a great example of a sector renowned for its innovative culture, and one which has always worked hand-in-hand with retail in facing its challenges, such as:
- Minimalist and Lightweight Designs: Another approach to sustainable packaging is adopting minimalist and lightweight designs. By reducing excess packaging and using lighter materials, brands can minimize resource consumption and transportation-related emissions. This trend not only saves costs but also appeals to consumers who appreciate simplicity and functionality while making a positive impact on the environment. Coca cola are one such example. By using advanced technology and engineering, they have been able to reduce the weight of their PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles without compromising product quality or safety. This lightweighting approach reduces the amount of plastic required for each bottle, leading to decreased material usage and overall packaging waste. At Sylvicta, we are always looking at ways to help our clients create packaging that has the functionality they need but also meets their environmental concerns and targets.
- Renewable Energy in Production: Global brands are increasingly investing in renewable energy sources to power their production facilities. By transitioning to solar, wind, or hydroelectric power, companies can significantly reduce their carbon emissions associated with manufacturing and packaging processes. The integration of renewable energy helps brands align their sustainability goals with environmentally friendly practices, further reinforcing their commitment to a greener future. Apple has set a goal to power all its facilities, including data centres, offices, and retail stores, with 100% renewable energy. Apple has invested in solar and wind energy projects, including building its own solar farms and purchasing clean energy from third-party providers.
- Embracing Digital Alternatives: In the digital age, global brands are embracing technology to reduce the need for physical packaging. Furthermore, brands are exploring digital QR codes or augmented reality experiences to enhance product information and engagement, minimising the need for additional printed materials. Whilst digital media is by no means carbon neutral and indeed can have its own significant carbon footprint, when used intelligently, it does give many opportunities to reduce producing physical items.
- Collaborations and Industry Partnerships: To tackle sustainability challenges, global brands are collaborating with industry partners, non-profit organisations, and governments. By joining forces, they can share best practices, leverage expertise, and collectively address complex issues related to packaging waste. These collaborations also help establish industry standards, drive innovation, and create a more sustainable ecosystem for all stakeholders involved.
Global brands have recognised the urgency of adopting sustainable packaging practices to meet the demands of environmentally conscious consumers.
Through material innovation, recycling initiatives, minimalist designs, renewable energy usage, digital alternatives, and collaborations, these brands are making significant strides towards reducing their environmental impact but there is still a huge amount of scope and potential in this sector to make an even bigger impact.
By prioritising sustainability, companies not only foster positive change but also inspire others to follow suit. Together, we can build a future where packaging is not just functional but also environmentally responsible.