Achieving your sustainable packaging goals and reducing carbon footprint can be accomplished through data and digital transformation

Gary Orr
9 January, 23

As it currently stands, 9 out of 10 businesses will fail to meet their 2025 sustainable packaging targets. In today’s environment, particularly with consumer demands for more sustainable products this is just not acceptable. In many cases, businesses are leaving decisions on sustainability until later in the overall approach to a product launch and this can be too late in the development of the product or innovation for real change to occur.

On top of this, globally new laws and regulations are starting to come into force that will put additional external pressure on businesses to conform and get their ESG objectives in line. Examples of this include in the European Union where the packaging & waste directive will see the implementation of a ban on select single use plastics. In Canada, the government is working on a country wide strategy for sustainable packaging and a strategy on zero plastic waste by 2030. These are just a couple of examples where directives on sustainability are enforced but other countries looking at legislation include the US, Australia, China and India.

Sustainability is like an onion, as layers are peeled, tears will flow. There are many different factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to sustainability and how it fits in with your business. Firstly, the status quo needs to be challenged and questions that need to be answered on your current packaging – is it reusable, is it locally and/or ethically sourced, has a low energy/water content, etc. Decision makers also need to factor in the five functions of packaging – Protect, Preserve, Promote, Inform and Contain. The function of packaging needs to be at the forefront of decision making, any changes will have implications and trade offs that need to be considered.

Clear packaging values also need to be addressed and defining the preferred, acceptable to be avoided packaging standards. Furthermore, educating all commercial stakeholders to negotiate product and packaging separately should also be considered which could include establishing clear guidelines for your suppliers to work towards and embedding all packing needs into future tenders.

The ability to change your business’ packaging should come from the initial strategy and concept discussions around your product or innovation. The reason for this is that it gives you the opportunity to influence the sustainability impacts of your innovation. In a high number of cases, stakeholders do not consider this until later stages of the process (detail, produce and launch) and this can be too late in the development of the product or innovation for real change to occur.

This is where the combination of digital transformation and data can assist stakeholders within an organisation to make the most logical decisions. The right digital measurement tools can ensure all stakeholders have the relevant data and information to hand that drives real change and assists in meeting an organisation’s goals. However, what is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is a term that is mentioned across all sectors in business and its importance is sometimes overlooked. It is the catalyst that propels a business forward boosting its proactivity and profitability. The need for businesses to undergo digital transformation has accelerated over the last few years but it can play a role in reducing a business’ carbon footprint and in turn align it with their internal ESG objectives.

Similarly, data is a sweeping term that seems to be used liberally regarding decisions and technological advancements. However, the two married together can produce real and substantive change for businesses. From the perspective of making more sustainable decisions within a company, data driven choices will help companies make truly informed decisions.

So how does a business understand its packaging performance? The answer is an assessment tool that uses the latest scientific methodology, features the data from

leading sources and of course is user-friendly and will evolve over time based on user needs. This will lead to calculation of the footprint of any packaging type and will generate a report or score for a packaging’s environmental performance and impact. The tool will also simulate multiple scenarios to reduce a pack’s impact and compare their current packaging against new packaging offerings. The result being that it gives stakeholders of an organisation all the relevant information and data it needs to make the correct decision based on their relevant ESG goals and objectives while also ensuring that it’s in line with their bottom line.

It is key that businesses are working towards their ESG goals and objectives, as the growing importance of sustainability is reflected in consumer purchasing decisions. There are a number of trends in this space that capture the consumer’s attention including packaging that can be recycled, reused, reducing packaging or replacing plastics with more sustainable materials.

Digital transformation and data will drive big changes in how businesses view their ESG objectives in the future particularly when it comes to packaging. The demands on this are already there and will continue to evolve as consumer behaviours turn a darker shade of ‘green’ as more people think of the impact their purchasing habits will have on the environment. Technology plays a massive role in our daily lives and it is crucial that businesses who are not analysing the sustainability of their packaging start the process now as it will inevitably save them time and money.

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