“But is the packaging sustainable?” Consumers want to know.

Consumerist culture has got a bad rap from environmental experts. In our opinion, this is an unfair label.

Why? Because it assumes that the vast majority of well-informed, responsible consumers choose to ignore the ecological consequences of their purchasing behaviour, when in fact, the opposite is true. A recent survey shows that almost three out of four consumers around the world would be willing to change their consumption routine to decrease their influence on the environment.

Not just what’s-in-the-box

Since the advent of packaged goods, brands have assumed that a customer’s sole interest is in the product. The stereotype of an eager buyer ripping apart wrapping paper, tearing open a box, and flinging aside the cushioning material to reveal the product they’ve purchased is too firmly entrenched. Today, the typical customer is more likely to examine the packaging, notice, and comment on its environment friendliness or lack thereof, and file away this information for future purchases.

Many multinational conglomerates and FMCG leaders have launched or redesigned products with a focus on sustainability because they believe that this is what appeals to customers. They would do well to go a step further, considering another research revelation; every other global consumer considers sustainable packaging to be the most important sustainability initiative that a brand can launch.

Customers care

To understand how consumer thinking has evolved, McKinsey conducted a survey in ten countries around the world (including India) to better understand customer attitudes towards sustainable packaging.

The results are unequivocal. 43% of surveyed US consumers cited environmental impact as extremely or very important for packaging; most also said that this factor is very important when they purchase products for various end-users areas. This is not a sector-specific preference; the responses are consistent across different end-use segments.

What’s more, India – which is often considered to be a market that is in throes of reckless consumerism – was more concerned about the environmental impact of packaging than all other countries surveyed. Four out of five Indian consumers are worried, but about what? In descending order of concern: Water pollution, marine litter, climate change, air pollution, deforestation, waste production, and resource depletion.

Even a casual observer of the ecological challenges that this country faces can correlate these concerns with what they have seen and read for themselves. Newsflash: Not only do customers care for the environment, but they also feel responsible for its protection.

Caring = concrete change?

It is one thing to feel that ‘something should be done for the environment, but it takes mass individual efforts to affect actual change. Consumers have come through, and how.

In another survey, three out of four shoppers said they have made a conscious effort to purchase more sustainable products in the past year. An even stronger majority – 86% – said they are more likely to purchase a product from a brand if the packaging is considered sustainable.

Three out of five respondents actively consider whether packaging can be recycled. A little less than half want all packaging to be completely biodegradable. And as a clear order to brands, three of four customers were certain that they expected more retailers to offer 100% sustainable packaging for their products soon.

Packaging directs purchasing

No longer can a brand afford to ship an innovatively designed, perfectly crafted, visually appealing product to a customer without giving a thought to the design, craft, and environmental appeal of the packaging. During the pandemic alone, over half of all customers have made more of an effort to buy sustainably packaged goods; even more, shared that the sustainability of the packaging chosen by the brand is a factor in their product selection process.

Slick product photoshoots and smartly worded product descriptions are not enough; customers want to know not just what they are getting, but what they are going to get it in.

Packaging sustainability = brand loyalty 

The following finding of a survey is most earth-shattering: Approximately 68% of consumers are open to switching to a brand that offers sustainable packaging. This is particularly true of younger consumers – the largest spending cohort of the future – who will rely on tech tools such as digital product labeling and mobile tracking apps to check environmental claims and ensure minimal climate impact.

Already, every other consumer chooses one comparable brand over another on the basis of packaging. 47% of buyers are even willing to purchase from a brand they normally wouldn’t patronize, simply because its packaging choices resonate with them – not an insignificant proportion.

But will customers pay?

The answer is a resounding yes! Brands no longer need to have misgivings about investing in more sustainable packaging options; according to the McKinsey survey, approximately 70% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, with many looking for options like compostable and paper packaging to take the place of plastics.

This is where Pack8 comes in. With our paper-based cushioning solution HexCush and paper-based void-filling Fill8, we are helping hundreds of customer-conscious brands meet their customers’ sustainable packaging expectations.

Here is one last result from the survey: Among all segments, customers believe that the ones which most need to do better in terms of the sustainability of their packaging are automobiles, electronics, and cosmetics – the very segments with which we at Pack8 work most closely.

We understand brands. And we understand their customers. Let us help you help yourself and the environment.

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