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Do consumers really value sustainable packaging?

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TerraCycle upcycled packagingIt’s a fact of life that we, as social beings, look for common ground when building relationships. Companies are no exception to this rule. Often, people seek out brands and companies that reflect their values. For instance, whether a company is charitable or not will influences its ability to attract a consumer that values this trait. With this I ask, do consumers really care about and value sustainable packaging? While some may be quick to answer “Yes”, it should not be forgotten that there are far more personal factors that consumers may care about other than the packaging of a product. Of course those familiar with my business know I am “all-in” that people do care about sustainable packaging.

Surprisingly, factors pertaining to the environment rank among the top issues consumers care about, with clean air the second- highest issue -only out ranked by safe drinking water as shown in a 2007 study by BBMG. Consumers, now more than ever, are becoming aware of the importance and benefits of sustainable packaging and realizes its relation to issues such as clean air and renewable energy. This, in essence, explains the growing rate of consumers supporting and participating in our programs at TerraCycle.

Yet, more important than social issues are the product’s attributes the ultimate driving factors in consumer sustainable behavior participation. As expected, the price and quality of a product outweigh the attribute of energy efficiency or recyclability. Consumers are not willing to sacrifice the convenience of a product even if the packaging of the product is excessive and wasteful. Despite price being the leading attribute, consumers are willing to pay a small additional cost if it ensures the packaging is environmentally friendly. It’s completely understandable. While it is nice to be environmentally conscious, consumers do not want to break their budgets in the process. In addition to this, the 2012 Regeneration Consumer Study states the performance of the product must meet or exceed that of the previous product for consumers to entirely embrace the more sustainable option.

Without a doubt, consumers are becoming more and more demanding. A good amount of consumers expect companies to already participate in principles that better the environment. In fact, according to the Perception Research Services (PRS), more than 80% of consumers across the U.S., U.K., China, and Germany believe it is the manufacturers’ responsibility and expect manufacturers to produce sustainable packaging, without demanding consumers to pay for the cost of the production. Fortunately, there is also a considerable amount of consumers that realize sustainable packaging is the responsibility of both the consumer and the manufacturer. If you don’t demand something better, companies are unlikely to make improvements.

In all, sustainability is slowly integrating itself in mass consumer culture. Consumers are beginning to identify themselves with the terms “conscious consumer”, “socially responsible”, and “environmentally-friendly” at high rates. In fact in the same 2007 BBMG study I previously mentioned, 88% of consumers said they were a “conscious” and “socially responsible” while 86% believed themselves to participate in “environmentally-friendly” behavior. If this is any indication, it is that consumers do value sustainable packaging, as they believe they are individually responsible for what happens in society.

Therefore, the demand to make sustainable packaging affordable and up-to-par with other packaging options is rational from the standpoint of a consumer. Even if there is a miniscule rise in cost, the prized value of sustainability will see more and more companies actively engaging in sustainable packaging for consumers.
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