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Sustainable Packaging—A Value Proposition

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

page 5 of 5

“Consumers are aware of the issues at hand, no question,” says Olsen. “Trying to please everyone will never happen, so we have made decisions based on what we think is the best overall sustainable choice. Overall, consumers are more realistic about these issues than other stakeholders, so it appears that they are supportive of our efforts. We try to share the message as often as possible; it is an issue about educating consumers—and is an extremely important issue for our future. In addition, it is imperative that there are numerous options for consumers, and this will happen more as consumer demand drives down costs.”

Careful and considerate use of packaging materials that bolster a brand’s eco-mission does have the power to please the consumer stakeholder and give them more reason to buy into the brand. “Marketers do share their packaging story with consumers, touting various environmental claims. They realize that consumers want simple answers to complex sustainability questions,” says Bacchetta, who also cites numbers that demonstrate both consumers’ interest and suspicion. “According to a recent Roper-Yale Survey on Environmental Issues*, a large majority of consumers (more than 70%) want additional information about environmental impacts on product labels. According to the EcoMarkets 2008 Summary Report**, however, 91% of respondents believe greenwashing is a problem that needs to be addressed. Solutions include better education, better enforcement of guidelines and better use of eco-labels. Eco-labels are beneficial because they make buying easier and pre-screen products for consumers. Adding graphic elements such as the Forest Stewardship Council’s certified paperboard logo or an environmental statement on how the package was manufactured [e.g. using renewable energy] can have a very positive impact on consumers.”

“A sustainable message on packaging is a way to engage consumers,” says Droppo. “Providing a tangible message—‘We saved 27,000 trees,’ for example—resonates with stakeholders. It’s not only [that] XYZ company is mindful of the environment, it’s ‘look what they did’. Those kinds of efforts are contagious.”

* Roper-Yale Survey on Environmental Issues is a collaboration between survey researchers at GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media and scholars at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

** The EcoMarkets 2008 Summary Report was published by Terra Choice Environmental Marketing in conjunction with the Responsible Purchasing Network and the North American Green Purchasing Initiative.