Do you remember when the words “Green”, “Sustainable” and “Fair Trade” were simply buzzwords that carried little punch?  No one was certain what they meant, but knew they sounded progressive.  Those days are long gone.  Today, many consumers are keenly aware of a brand’s efforts, or lack thereof, to be sustainable and are voting with their dollars.  To be competitive in the current marketplace, businesses must take a serious look at the ways in which they can increase their efforts to make a positive social and environmental impact. For most, implementing a sustainable package is what’s going to make the biggest difference, and to their bottom line goes the booty (meaning prizes or rewards, for those who don’t speak pirate like me).

 

Trend 1: Millennials Rule

Now I may be a tad biased, but it’s true!! Millennials are the largest generational group in history at 86 million strong.  They’re between the ages of 17 and 34, spending approximately $600 billion annually (http://www.oliverrussell.com/millennials-and-social-responsibility-marketing).  Those dollars are expected to more than double over the next six years.  What are they doing with all that buying power?  They’re driving social and environmental change.  They’re insisting on accountability from major corporations and demanding the implementation of positive social and environmental best practices throughout the supply chain.  This mass of socially-aware consumers are helping to reshape the definition of corporate social responsibility by putting their money where their mouth is, and spending more on brands that have exhibited solid efforts to be green.

I’ve seen varying accounts, but according to a market report by Smithers Pira, The Future of Sustainable Packaging to 2018, the global market for sustainable packaging is estimated to reach $244 billion by the year 2018.  Being green is now expected whenever possible, and packaging is a significant contributor when evaluating a company’s commitment to sustainability.  Consumers want to know where the package was made, what materials it’s made from, and whether or not it’s recyclable.

 

Trend 2: So long Petroleum-Derived Plastics, Hello Plant-based Alternatives

For too long now we’ve relied heavily upon petroleum-based plastics for our needs.  These traditional plastics are manufactured from fossil oil, which is taken from our finite fossil resources.  Examples are PET, PE and PP, used for everything from plastic water bottles to the pouch of granola in your cupboard.

In 2015, we’re seeing the emergence of bioplastics.  These plant-based plastics from renewable resources are competing with our traditional petroleum-based plastics in the market.  Just yesterday I was handed a spoon at the coffee shop made of plant starch.  How cool is that!?  With the purpose-driven millennials demanding sustainable alternatives, it is evident that packaging will play a substantial role in shaping consumer attitudes towards (or away from) brands.

Companies like Coca-Cola are taking notice and making a change.  They introduced the PlantBottleTM, the first-ever fully recyclable PET plastic bottle made partially from plants.  As of June 2014, over 25 billion of its PlantBottleTM packages are in the market across 37 countries.  They claim this has saved approximately 525,000 barrels of oil.  And that’s just one type of packaging used by one company.  Think of the impact that could be felt from say the top 100 largest retailers making the switch to pant-based plastics.

 

 

Trend 3: Your Packaging Likely Could Use a Diet

Smaller. Lighter. Flexible.  No, I’m not talking about my waistline goals.  These are the principles that should be guiding a company’s approach to packaging in 2015.  The big brands have been feeling the heat for a while.  Coca-Cola launched the PlantBottleTM in 2009, but launched their first plastic bottle made with recycled materials in 1991.  (To learn more about Coca-Cola’s Sustainable Packaging efforts: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/learn-more-about-sustainable-packaging/)  In 2008, Dell introduced bamboo packaging for some of their smaller products.  Just two years later, they announced they’d begin shipping other products in packaging made from fungus material combined with recycled commercial agricultural waste.  May sound strange, but both types of packaging are renewable and biodegradable.  Most recently, in 2013 they pronounced they’d be taking it even one step further.  By 2020, 100% of Dell’s packaging will be from sustainable materials that will be either recyclable or compostable.  The pressure for sustainable packaging is no longer exclusive to large corporations.  Conscious consumers are expecting all businesses to jump on the train and consider the environment whenever shipping or packaging their product.  While biodegradable mailers and compostable packaging can be admittedly more complicated than we realize, we can all make minor adjustments to our fulfillment processes that can add up to making a significant impact.  Anyone currently using large, bulky cardboard boxes can easily put their packaging on a diet by replacing those with slim and easily recyclable poly mailers.  It’s all about looking at the needs of your company or organization and choosing the best packaging based on what makes sense for your unique set of circumstances.

As you can see, this year is all about corporate responsibility and executing process changes to better the environment and our community.  Analyze each aspect of your business and pinpoint your current weaknesses.  If one of those is protective packaging, be sure to head on over to PAC Worldwide’s site to learn more about the Green Solutions we have for you.  What is going to be your customer’s last impression of you?  Make it a good one with one of our customizable recycled poly or paperboard mailers, or any one of our 100% recyclable poly products.