Plastic packaging: how brands can practice what they pledge


Tess Kenning

Director, London

Categories News

2018 has proved to be a significant milestone in the fight for sustainability. 


The UK Government kicked off the year by announcing their 25 year commitment to improving the environment within one generation. And just four months on the momentum has been sustained with over 40 major UK based companies pledging to cut plastic pollution by 2025.


With the support of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) has launched the UK arm of the international initiative The Plastics Pact, a pledge that aims to create a more circular plastic economy so that 100% of the worlds packaging becomes recyclable, reusable or compostable.


Consumer goods giants such as Unilever, Nestle, PepsiCo, and AB World foods have committed to banning all single-use plastic within 7 years time.

The timing of the plastic pact reflects the behavioural shift among consumers regarding sustainable practices and ideals, especially in the UK. ‘Sustainability’ as a factor has grown in importance for many, even when making purchase decisions and product choices.


Not only does the pact mark a monumental moment for sustainability in the UK, it presents a real opportunity for brands to champion positive change and sustainable innovation.


How can they do this? The answer is authenticity.


Fake news and data misuse has diminished consumer trust. Brands can help to rebuild this by evolving their offering of transparency and championing credentials that consumers feel they genuinely identify with. It is no coincidence that retailers felt consumer backlash as a result of the  ‘Blue Planet Effect’. National treasure David Attenborough epitomises authenticity and his call to action was well and truly answered.

With approximately 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans alone this pledge couldn’t come at a better time.

The gap between what consumers say and what they actually do is starting to close. Consumer attitudes have not changed so much – you ask anyone and they will say they’re concerned about the environment – but now we’re starting to see actual behaviour reflect those concerns. As a result, consumers’ needs are starting to evolve and Governments and corporations are responding.


We were lucky enough to be able to visit Ecover’s pop-up rubbish café, an inspirational space for consumers to come for simple eco tips and the chance to sample a zero waste menu by eco chef Tom Hunt, all whilst allowing customers to “pay” with their plastic (waste).

Other examples of where brands are responding can be seen in the ‘packaging-free’ stores opening across the UK and coffee shops, like Pret A Manger, offering keep cup discounts to its customers.


However, this is only the tip of the plastic iceberg, so to speak.


What happens next will be important in shaping the future cultural and behavioural norms of our society. We believe this plastic pledge will be the tipping point for change, on a large scale. Consumers are looking to brands to lead the way and expect them to take responsibility for their impact on the planet. So there’s a real opportunity for brands to shape the future and influence consumer behaviour to bridge ‘the gap’ for good.