Green is ingrained in packaging, says new Packaging Digest study

John Kalkowski

January 30, 2014

3 Min Read
Green is ingrained in packaging, says new Packaging Digest study
Sustainability, packaging,


Packaging Digest 2009 Sustainability in Packaging Study

Sustainability has been a primary consideration in the packaging industry the last several years, and its influence continues to grow, according to the third annual Sustainability in Packaging study sponsored by Packaging Digest and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC).

Not surprisingly, data show that sustainability awareness among packagers has reached new highs in 2009, with 41 percent of the survey's 1,012 respondents saying they are very familiar with the issues of sustainability versus 21 percent in the original 2007 survey.

The emphasis on sustainable packaging has increased in the last year, according to 68 percent of respondents, while only 4 percent say they've seen a decrease in emphasis. The fact that the number of survey participants topped 1,000 for the third consecutive time is another indicator of the high interest in sustainability among those working in packaging-related jobs.

Nearly nine out of 10 survey participants say that sustainable design has become a consideration in packaging-design decisions, although just 21 percent say it is a very important factor.

However, customers clearly drive companies' sustainable activities, as nearly two-thirds of respondents say their customer's voice–be it retailers or actual consumers–is what has the most impact on how they pursue sustainability. However, nearly half of those answering the survey claim that fewer than 10 percent of their customers are actually requiring packaging that has sustainable characteristics.

As the chart above indicates, Walmart, with 441 mentions, has had the most impact on sustainability when respondents were asked to identify corporate leaders on environmental issues. Although participants identified more than 100 companies with environmental leadership qualities, Procter & Gamble was the only company beside Walmart to garner more than 100 mentions.

Companies do expect a return on their investments in sustainable activities, according to 57 percent of respondents, up slightly from 53 percent in 2008. However, those who expect that payback in less than one year jumped to 13 percent of those in the study, up from 5 percent the previous year.


Few setting out policies

In 2009, only 21 percent of respondents say their companies have formal, written policies on sustainability, while another 22 percent say the companies have informal, unwritten guidelines and 28 percent have none at all. The most common guidelines included in these policies are recycled content specifications, bans or limits on specific material usage and new design guidelines. Still, 53 percent said their business has no measurement tool in place to evaluate performance or track the progress of company sustainability activities.

When asked what developments are most needed to achieve their company goals, 51 percent of participants cited better, new materials and improved education and training. Better collection and recovery methods, which received the most mentions in 2008, slipped to 41 percent of the vote from 49 percent. The use of recycled or recyclable materials were listed as high priorities among respondents' companies. In addition, 59 percent say that the use of recycled materials is the primary criterium their companies use to evaluate sustainable packaging.

For further explanation of the Sustainability in Packaging study, watch for registration information on for a webcast to be held in December.

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