Better education needed over eco-packaging

Hitchin: "We need to help marketers make more informed decisions"
Hitchin: "We need to help marketers make more informed decisions"

New research shows that while marketing professionals believe sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging is vital, their understanding of processes and terminology is poor.

The study by Pro Carton, the European association of carton and cartonboard manufacturers, found that of 51 UK marketing managers and directors surveyed, all agreed that materials used to package products is key to the marketing mix and that sustainable packaging is important to their business.

But while 58% said cartonboard was an environmentally friendly material, 56% thought that flexible plastic, neither renewable nor biodegradable, was eco-friendly.

Pro Carton general manager Tony Hitchin said marketing professionals needed to be better educated on the sustainability of different materials.

He said: “According to the Cambridge Dictionary, sustainability is the idea that goods should be produced in ways that do not use resources that cannot be replaced and that do not damage the environment. 

“The origin and end-of-life of materials is, therefore, key as to whether a piece of packaging is truly sustainable and thus environmentally friendly. Interestingly, over a third of our survey thought sustainability was just another word for recycling.”

When asked to describe the meaning of sustainability, 55% said it meant using materials that do not deplete the earth’s natural resources, 53% said it was about reducing packaging, and 43% said that ‘light-weighting’ was extremely important in the context of their company’s environmental packaging strategy. 

Hitchin said: “Sustainability is about so much more than recycling or light-weighting. There really is little environmental benefit in light-weighting a material that is not recyclable or biodegradable.

“Whilst it’s hugely encouraging to see packaging decision-makers understanding the value of environmentally friendly packaging and that all of them agree that packaging is a key element of the marketing mix, we need to help marketers make more informed decisions to ensure that we don’t further damage our planet.”

He added: “Whilst most of them recognise that cartonboard is the most environmentally friendly material as it’s recyclable, biodegradable and comes from sustainably managed forests, there’s still a job to be done. Cartonboard is the ideal choice for brands looking to be part of the circular economy.”

Furthermore, sales of FMCG products increase if packaging is switched to “a more environmental solution”, according to one in three (31%) of the survey respondents.  

And when asked about the most important factor in making decisions about packaging, 37% of the marketing professionals questioned said being environmentally friendly, followed by quality (25%) with brand value communication (13%) in third place.

More than half of the respondents (55%) felt that retailers and brands should be doing more to introduce more environmentally friendly packaging.

Last year, Pro Carton asked the same question to 1,000 UK consumers who felt that the pace of change was too slow as 72% said that brands and retailers weren’t doing enough.