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Green packaging – good for the environment and for business

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  • Associate Director

When it comes to green, sustainable packaging, consumer attitudes have changed considerably in recent years. An increased awareness of environmental issues and the impact of wasting the earth's resources are key reasons behind this, but the change is not just good news for the environment. There are many good financial reasons for companies to put money into the research and development of environmentally-friendly product packaging.

While packaging is essential in many cases for providing protection, ease of transport, branding and passing information onto consumers, it can potentially have a negative impact on the environment. Packaging made from non-renewable sources, materials that cannot be easily recycled and often quickly disposed of, can cause serious problems. On the other hand, sustainable packaging that comes from traceable sources, makes use of renewable resources and can be easily reused rather than disposed of has started to take centre stage.

Smithers Pira, the UK-based packaging research firm, suggested in February that the market for sustainable packaging will be worth $244 billion by 2018. This predicted growth comes as a result of changing consumer attitudes, government legislation and advances in technology that are making it easier and cheaper to create green packaging.

Traceability is a core theme running through the whole of the retail sector. Consumers are now far more aware, for example, about where their food comes from. The demand for knowledge will only increase as far as packaging is concerned, making it more important for businesses to have a transparent supply chain and to communicate this to consumers. Providing customers with information via a product's labelling, such as where it has come from, whether it is from a sustainable source and how it can be recycled or reused is also becoming increasingly important.

Environmental charities, pressure groups and consumers themselves have been pushing for changes to the way products are packaged for years. The difference today is that more businesses themselves are coming on-board, looking at how changes can be made and being open and honest with their customers, and there are sound financial reasons for doing so.

A study conducted by Deloitte that gathered the views of more than 6,000 consumers, found that "green shoppers" do not fit into one particular demographic, but are in fact spread right across the market. This highlights the fact that concerns over sustainability of packaging are widespread. The importance for businesses to deliver green products could not be clearer, with almost two-thirds of people spoken to by the researchers admitting that they actively look for green products when shopping.

Whether thinking in terms of business or considering the environment, it is clear that actively appealing to expectant consumers is something that everybody should be doing. Green packaging is in demand and ignoring its potential can no longer be an option.

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