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Study: Packaging Industry More Knowledgeable and Focused on Sustainability

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November 4, 2010

The packaging industry has developed deeper knowledge of environmental issues and is focusing more on sustainable materials and design choices, according to a new study.

green packaging imageNearly two-thirds of respondents said sustainable design has become an important factor in packaging decisions, according to the fourth annual Sustainability in Packaging study conducted in October by Packaging Digest and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

The study yielded 630 responses from all areas of packaging, including packagers, material and machinery suppliers, consumer packaged goods companies and retailers.

“The benchmarking surveys conducted over the course of four years show the evolution of sustainability in packaging from a point where packagers were asking, ‘What is sustainability?’ to ‘How do we effectively measure our success?’ according to a report in Packaging Digest.

Ninety-eight percent of the 2010 survey respondents said they are familiar with sustainability issues, versus 53 percent in the first 2007 survey, and those who said they are completely unfamiliar with sustainability declined from 10 percent in 2007 to 2 percent this year.

Casting their votes for the leadership in sustainability, respondents selected Walmart among retailers and Procter & Gamble among CPG companies. Although many suppliers are making strides in sustainability, 87 percent of respondents said they felt no single supplier demonstrated leadership in this area.

The following are other top-line study findings:

  • Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said their companies are placing increased importance on sustainability in their packaging, with 61 percent reporting their customers also are placing more importance on sustainability improvements.
  • 81 percent of respondents said too many companies are “greenwashing” their packaging by making false or unproven claims on its environmental benefits. 
  • Three quarters of respondents said the industry needs a set of defined global sustainability metrics, and 60 percent said vendor scorecards or ratings are needed to compare packaging suppliers’ sustainability practices.
  • 45 percent of respondent companies have established sustainable packaging policies in place, up from 32 percent in 2007.
  •  Of those with formalized practices, 25 percent said those policies have been codified, and 35 percent said their companies are making those strategies public.
  • The most popular guidelines included in the sustainable packaging policies include energy consumption (62 percent), recycled content specifications (54 percent), design guidelines (49 percent), and bans or limits on specific materials usage (43 percent).
  • Two-thirds of respondents agree that failure to improve sustainability practices would risk the company’s reputation. 
  • Nearly two-thirds said sustainability initiatives have been difficult to advance during the economic downturn.


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