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Sustainable Packaging—A Value Proposition

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: February 27, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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According to Diamond Packaging’s Bacchetta, an overall sustainable packaging proposition requires collaboration with partners throughout the supply chain—including marketing/sales, distribution and retailers—that translates into brand dividends.

“Sustainability optimizes the value of packaging through every phase of its life cycle, from design to end of use,” he says. “Through creative design, careful material selection and best practices at the plant level, companies are able to minimize waste, reduce shipping costs and increase efficiencies—all of which support a sustainable use of resources and cultivate a positive emotional connection to the brand.”

“We talk to our suppliers all the time,” says Schweitzer, noting that there are real economic considerations in any packaging decision. “Obviously, you have to weigh the cost implications. You want to deliver a product that is affordable. It’s not so easy to just change your packaging, because you have a formula that has to undergo stability testing,” she continues. “So, when you make a change like that, it’s pretty major. Two to three months [of] stability testing are needed to make sure the product is going to be safe to use in a new package. When we are reformulating or creating something new, that’s a good time to evaluate the packaging. In general, we want to make sure that we have a cohesive line. If we’re adding a new product to a category, we want to make sure it fits in with what we’ve already established. Brand identity or appearance is going to override the technical piece (the materials). Hopefully, down the road, that won’t be a road block. Right now, there are cases when certain materials we want to use are not optimal.”

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As brands respond to calls for an eco-conscious sensibility, gauging consumer reactions is important in the formulation and execution of ongoing strategies, and understanding both consumers’ choices and the reason behind those choices is imperative to any business proposition.

In considering sustainable packaging options, another fundamental question is, “Does this earn my brand sales?” This is particularly important if the use of these options are undertaken solely to back a marketing initiative. “Recent studies suggest that [sustainable] does deliver value, but it’s not yet a key driver for purchasing decisions of most consumers,” says Bacchetta.