Sustainability seems to be on the minds of nearly everyone in packaging. Packaging Digest and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition recently conducted our second comprehensive research study benchmarking the state of sustainability in packaging, measuring the awareness and adoption levels, its impact on decision making, activities undertaken and how it is measured.
The survey, which drew 1,163 responses from packaging professionals, demonstrated that familiarity with sustainability has grown rapidly in the past year, with 67 percent of the respondents saying they were moderately or very familiar with the issues. More than 60 percent of the respondents said their companies have sustainability policies in place or that policies are in the process of being formulated.
One finding of the survey is that customer requirements are the most influential factor in driving sustainability activities among packagers. Respondents noted that brand owners and retailers have increased their sustainability demands, with 53 percent saying that more than half of their customers are seeking more eco-friendly packaging.
A majority of respondents indicated their sustainability efforts are being tied to the strategies of their business. More than 50 percent say their organizations require a return on investment for their sustainability activities, with most expecting the payback period within one to two years.
Volatile prices of raw materials and energy are expected to have the greatest impact on sustainability over the next five years, with 79 percent of respondents saying that they are emphasizing waste reduction and 62 percent focusing on energy conservation.
However, nearly three-quarters of the companies in the survey tie their sustainability initiatives to other programs already underway, with 39 percent linking sustainability to Lean Manufacturing and 36 percent connecting it to their quality programs.
When it comes to what's included in sustainability policies, design guidelines, recycled-content specifications and use of more sustainable materials are the most popular items. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said that sustainable design has had a greater impact on their packaging decisions in 2008.
One major concern facing the packaging market is “greenwashing,” the practice of making sustainability claims that are false or not having data to backup claims. A whopping 77 percent of respondents say standards are needed for sustainability marketing, yet respondents are mixed on which organization should set those standards.
The following pages show charts of key survey results. For a complete presentation on the sustainability in packaging study results, visit
. Also, watch for details of an upcoming webcast on the subject.