Sustainable Packaging: A Quick Guide for Small Businesses

Today’s consumer is more conscious of their impact on the environment.

According to the Global Buying Green Report by Trivium Packaging, 83% of young consumers would pay more for eco-friendly packaging options. Interestingly, this increased from the percentage (70%) before the pandemic.

Consumers now expect more eco-friendliness from businesses. Therefore, most business owners must be familiar with sustainable packaging and how they can maximize its benefits for the company, customers, and the environment.

What is sustainable packaging?

Sustainable packaging refers to packaging methods that have a reduced negative impact on the environment. Sustainability is a broad term that’s usually narrowed down to eco-friendliness. Sustainability expands into social and economic benefits as well. However, there is more focus on the environmental impact of subjects like packaging.

There are some factors to consider when introducing sustainable packaging to your business. Every business owner or decision-maker wants to reduce costs whenever possible. Hence, any new business initiative will go through budgetary scrutiny. If a specific packaging method is more environmentally friendly but costly, customers may become less interested in buying.

Recently, more consumers have shown a willingness to pay more for eco-friendly product options. So, if the cost of sustainable packaging will add to the price of a product, you may consider informing your customers at the point of purchase. There is an increasing proportion of environmentally conscious consumers who understand and will support sustainable lifestyles.

Another essential consideration in eco-friendly packaging is the process of achieving sustainability. Some packaging materials need to be sorted at designated sorting facilities, while others are naturally biodegradable. For sustainability to be practical, packaging materials that require specialized processes should only be used when such facilities are accessible.

Why should your business care about sustainable packaging?

Improves customer satisfaction

Environmental consciousness is gaining popularity quickly among consumers. Your customers may not place sustainability demands yet, but most of them know that the environment needs saving.

Switching to a more sustainable packaging method demonstrates that you align with your target customers’ values. More consumers now say that they would patronize and even pay more to businesses that are concerned about the environment. While making the switch to sustainable packaging, communicate these changes and the reasons to your customers. It reduces the barrier to acceptance in case there’s a price increase. Another benefit of communicating with your customers is that it motivates them to do their part in the proper disposal of the package.

Improves brand image

Consumers are now more interested in brand values, not just those listed on your business website, but the visible core values as demonstrated in practice. Your customer base could be passionate about various causes, but the majority of them will be interested in sustainability, climate change, and carbon footprint reduction.

Today’s market is incredibly consumer-driven. Testimonials from your customers can persuade or discourage potential buyers. Because of the fast-paced nature of communication, it is challenging to stay neutral. Consumers passionate about an issue may assume that your business does not care and perceive your brand as nonchalant.

Additionally, there’s no downside to sustainable packaging effects on brand image. Caring for the environment is highly unlikely to be why you will lose a customer.

Business responsibility

There is overwhelming evidence that supports the fact that individuals and businesses must adjust their practices to protect the environment. Companies can only function properly in a conducive environment. Hence, beyond the marketing and financial benefits of sustainable packaging, every business owner is responsible for the environment and ensuring that businesses can operate in the future.

Practical, sustainable packaging strategies for your business

Use secure packaging

The primary purpose of packaging is to protect your product and ensure it reaches the consumer in good shape. If you run an eCommerce business and need to make deliveries, transportation is a factor you must consider. If the product reaches the customer in a damaged condition, they will return it. That’s twice the carbon footprint for transportation. Secure packaging ensures that your goods only make one trip – from you to the customer.

Manage space

Reduce the air space in your packaging as much as possible. The excess space takes up more packaging material and increases the carbon footprint. Some products are fragile and may need air-filled cushioning to prevent damage. However, many suppliers use similar-sized packaging for a wide range of products to avoid extra work for size-optimized packaging. If every business uses size-optimized packaging, carbon emissions can be reduced by millions.

Prioritize recycled material

When sourcing eco-friendly packaging products, consider recycled options first. This covers materials like paper and plastic. For plastic specifically, only go for non-recycled options as a last resort. Unlike paper, plastic is usually non-biodegradable. Hence, using recycled plastic would help reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills.

Some sources suggest biodegradable plastic as an option. If such plastic material is littered, it takes much longer to biodegrade and contributes to environmental pollution.

Communicate your sustainability values

To fully achieve the goal of eco-friendly packaging, the consumers must be aware of their responsibility in the whole process. Recyclable packaging must be properly disposed of. While communicating with your buyers, you can also encourage them to reuse some packaging when necessary. If possible, introduce reward systems to motivate consumers to reuse packaging material. This applies primarily to consumers who walk into the physical business location.

To ensure that your customers respond positively to the switch to sustainable packaging, you may provide options initially. This allows customers to control their switch to sustainable packaging.

By Brendan Heegan

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