Reducing a business’s carbon footprint through packaging and digital transformation

Gary Orr
6 March, 23

It is no secret to anyone that sustainability is one of the biggest challenges facing the corporate world today. It is like an onion – as layers are peeled, tears will flow. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that the responsibility for tomorrow’s child is in the hands of large corporations across the globe. In spite of these mounting concerns seen widespread, businesses are nowhere close to meeting their sustainability targets. Gartner’s latest supply chain prediction estimates that a startling 9 out of 10 organisations will fail to meet their 2025 sustainable packaging goals. This is where environmental, social and governance (ESG) can play an important role – despite these three words haunting businesses globally, perhaps this is a way in which companies can stand out from the crowd in 2023

A company can engage in ESG initiatives in many ways, such as reducing carbon footprint, waste management, and general efforts towards becoming more sustainable within the supply chain. According to recent data released by Capgemini, 42% of consumers want natural and healthy ingredients in their products, while 31% of consumers opt for products that have minimal packaging. It is evident that in today’s business environment, consumers are a driving force behind companies and organisations reviewing their ESG objectives and aligning them with their overriding business goals.

There are many different factors that need to be considered when it comes to sustainability and how it fits in within your business. Firstly, companies should identify the level they are at when it comes to sustainability and their ESG initiatives, as this will provide businesses with a clear baseline that will allow them to work towards increasing their efforts to become brave and bold players in terms of ESG. When starting to look at where businesses can improve on the sustainability front there are a number of trends in this space that capture the consumer’s attention. These include packaging that can be recycled, and reused, reducing packaging or replacing plastics with more sustainable materials. Businesses can use packaging as a leverage point that will allow them to create a systematic change in their sector.

To begin, there are questions that need to be answered on a company’s current packaging – is it reusable, is it locally and/or ethically sourced, does it have a low energy/water content, and so on? 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 and design, any changes will have implications and trade-offs that need to be considered.

With this in mind, how does a business look to understand its packaging performance? The answer lies in an assessment tool that uses the latest scientific methodology, features data from leading sources, is user-friendly and will evolve over time based on user needs. This will lead to the 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 is that it gives stakeholders of an organisation all the relevant information and data it needs to make the right decision based on their relevant ESG goals and objectives while also ensuring that it’s in line with their bottom line.

Using such technology and data then leads to the idea of digital transformation and the need for a business to stay up to date with the latest technologies. Digital transformation is a term mentioned across all sectors of 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, however, there are many that trail behind.  While some are late to catch on to these advancements, the benefits for those who do are clear as businesses can use this technology to keep up with consumer demands, connect with consumers on a more meaningful level and enhance customer experience and improve both internal and external communication.

As well as digital transformation, the use of data can be highly useful for businesses when meeting customers’ sustainability demands, as data and technology provide a gateway for businesses to build stronger relationships with their customers. Businesses are beginning to engage with new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality that enhances the customer’s experience and promotes customer connectedness. Packaging becomes like Doctor Who’s Tardis and makes the product bigger on the inside through virtual experiences. It also provides answers to the above questions that consumers may have about a product’s packaging.

This can be useful for the brand as it allows the customer to learn about the life cycle of the product which will in turn build trust between the business and its customers. It enables businesses to be transparent with their customers and demonstrate their ESG initiatives that benefit both the customer and the environment, building their brand purpose. Brand purpose is key as it builds trust with customers and is the reason for increased brand loyalty. As the customer engages with the brand more and more, these virtual experiences will become more personalised because of the collection of data, connecting the customer with the business in a more personal and bespoke manner.

Data provides insight and knowledge which then leads to efficiency, cost reduction and action. Ultimately in 2023, engaging with new technologies is a way that businesses can break the status quo and become leaders in this increasingly competitive space.

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