Is the notion of sustainable packaging a myth?


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We reflect upon PWC’s latest report that suggests the phrase needs to be scrapped…

PWC debate sustainable packaging
PWC debate sustainable packaging

As the only qualitative market research agency specialising in global pack design, we look at sustainability through a consumer-focussed lens, and have done so recently in a study on The Semiotics of Sustainable Packaging.

Today’s PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report calling on industry and regulators to abandon a myopic focus on ‘sustainable packaging’ is right; when it comes to sustainability, there needs to be an industry shift from focusing merely on the pack, to ensuring an efficient product life-cycle and process.

However, to the consumer, packaging is the means by which we can effectively communicate this efficiency at the point of sale and in home.

Packaging can help consumers understand the sustainable story

Indeed, for products which are sustainable, there is an opportunity on pack to not only tell the story behind the contents – such as product origins, raw ingredients and materials, production methods – but also the narrative of the product and pack beyond the purchase – such as storage, reuse, refilling, and disposal.

This communication can be further reinforced when the physical properties of the pack are sustainable, thus supporting the argument that packaging should never be deemed irrelevant in the sustainable equation.

We would therefore argue that the term ‘sustainable packaging’ isn’t redundant – merely outdated – and that ideally, we need to talk about packaging in a way that more accurately reflects the fact it is a medium for communicating a brand’s sustainable credentials to the consumer…