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Eco Opportunities in Beauty Packaging

By: Sara Mason
Posted: May 31, 2013, from the June 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

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There is a disconnect, agrees Julie Urlaub, managing partner, Taiga Company. “Everyone has great green intentions, shopping with the environment in mind, but there is a gap between thought and action,” she comments. The good news is that it’s trending upward—consumers are more willing today than yesterday to put action where their mouths are.

And despite the lack of consistent follow through, consumers are showing an inclination to learn more. “They want to know the life cycle, how to use the package and how to dispose of it,” says Urlaub. “Is it easy? Where do I go? What do I do?”

Consumers often do need to be educated about what to do with the package to use and dispose of it properly. There’s no progress in making a change to benefit the environment if the users don’t know what to do or have the right resources. “Consumers are overwhelmed by the volume of message in the marketplace,” says Urlaub. “Engaging consumers with clear and authentic communication can ensure they understand the role they play in minimizing the environmental impact associated with a product’s life cycle.”

The average user may not recognize biodegradable materials or understand whether it was manufactured using renewable energy. “Piggyback on what they do understand, such as waste and recycling, to engage them in your story,” Urlaub says.

Paperboard packaging, for example, is inherently renewable and recyclable, and continues to be a viable option for brand owners looking to communicate a commitment to sustainability. Many consumers immediately recognize that paperboard is recyclable and have easy access to the necessary disposal services. “This minimizes the learning curve and allows them to feel good about making a choice that is better for the environment but that did not add any inconvenience,” explains PaperWorks’ Fisher.

PaperWorks partners directly with customers to guide them on designing a package that is sustainability-enhancing, such as including materials that are recyclable, made from recycled material or lightweighted. “In addition to providing brand owners with packaging that demonstrates its eco-awareness to consumers, we also provide package assessments that show how these enhancements contribute to their overall environmental footprint,” explains Fisher.

While eliminating excess packaging is important, the key is to balance the reduction of the packaging consumers see without affecting the integrity of the product. Typical methodologies have been to lightweight the materials—using a lighter plastic or lesser weight outer carton—or eliminate it entirely. “Consumers will not tolerate contaminated, spoiled or broken merchandise,” Hines explains, so “removing elements of packaging only to have the product break in shipping or face the uproar after an outbreak of illness is going to cost a brand more in the end.” Before making costly mistakes, companies need to educate consumers on the role of packaging to protect the product and the user.

“You cannot have a product without a package,” says Hines. “Packaging is not going away.” She recommends that the industry work together to solve the problem of excess packaging, rather than turning it into a marketing campaign and a competition to see who comes out on top.

She cites the example of deodorant, which once upon a time came packaged in a cardboard box with the tube inside. “The industry eliminated the excess packaging without destroying the integrity of the product,” she explains. “Together, companies came up with a solution to the problem and implemented it.”

The industry can collaborate and look to see what others are doing to keep progressing as well. “The more new ideas are embraced, the more we can push the envelope,” says Urlaub.

Unilever is very diligent about reaching its sustainability goals, and one way the company is striving to present itself as eco-friendly is by following the lead of concentrated laundry detergents: ultra packaging where concentrated formulas provide the same product in half the packaging. Unilever’s new “compressed” deodorant format—developed by Lindal Group—pioneers a new approach to deodorant packaging, branding and eco-design for brands such as Sure, Dove and Vaseline. Now on shelves throughout Europe, the smaller cans last as long as the old product, use 50% of the propellant, are half the size and reduce the overall carbon footprint of the product through 28% aluminum and further transportation and stocking gains (e.g., more packs stacked per pallet). According to Unilever, the aerosol format makes up 80% of the deodorant category.

“The aggregate savings are tremendous,” says Philip Brand, Lindal’s global marketing director. “By reducing packaging size, weight, shipping costs—it all impacts on supply chains as well as on product life cycle.” With Lindal’s Truspray system, Brand anticipates other product categories to adopt platforms that cut propellant and solvent use as well. “Development opportunities become wide open with such innovation,” he explains.

As for Lindal’s eye toward the future, recently the company launched its new Global Innovation Center, a facility designed to leverage the company’s aerosol expertise and further support customers in development of new generation packaging solutions.

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