Sustainable packaging is a common buzz phrase thrown around various blogs and websites. But sustainable packaging is a complex, and a multilayered issue. Many times the idea of sustainable packaging is viewed through a narrow lense. Many people associate sustainability with the concept of recycling. For example, after a product is removed from a cardboard box the box is recycled. This is an example of the simplistic idea many people and companies have regarding sustainability. But sustainability and especially packaging sustainability is much more encompassing. For a company to truly succeed at being environmentally conscious, they must build in procedures and a culture that spans the entire company. Every employee and every department must consider the implications of their decisions and strategy implementations. This in itself is a form of innovation. Innovation for the purpose of sustainable packaging must start at the management and culture level.
Environmental packaging needs to be thought of as an idea and a system integrated with marketing, product development, and sales departments. Packaging that is sustainable should comprise of two main components. It should be optimized for each department or function and it should be sustainable. Whether it’s retail packaging or custom boxes for your product, each type of packaging in each department should be scrutinized for sustainability. This means that when the marketing department is designing new custom box packaging, for example, the designers should be integrating the practice of sustainability into their design. Whether it’s using less ink or using packaging material more efficiently the goal is to product a more environmentally friendly design. Or perhaps the product development department needs to consider how the product will be packaged and what if any steps can be taken to create a more environmentally conscious solution.
Sales and Distribution is one of the final steps that a product moves through before it reaches the hands of the consumer. So when a company is designing a product and it’s associated packaging, it must really think about the sustainability of the Sales and Distribution channels. Companies must consider the impact that a product will have on the planet and on people. One way to really understand this concept is to look at a company like Ikea. The scale at which Ikea must operate is massive. Ikea produces over 6,000 packaging solutions every year but this is very small example of the scale of their entire operation. Despite the sheer scale of their operation, Ikea has committed to moving their entire ecosystem into a more sustainable direction. This is a great example of sustainable packaging because it encompases company wide principles.