How Public Attention to the Environment is Shaping Retail Packaging Decisions

reduce-reuse-recycle_400Consumer demand is a powerful thing. It shapes virtually every aspect of product development and delivery, store designs, pricing and much more. In the past few years, it’s even driven much of the movement toward more sustainable supply chains. Consumers are more aware than ever of the environmental impact of their purchases and they’re demanding companies do a better job of reducing waste, improving sustainability, and reducing retail packaging that ends up in landfills.

Businesses are hearing them, too.

In PwC’s 19th annual Global CEO Survey of more than 1,400 CEOs around the world, half of those polled said they were concerned about climate change and environmental damage, with 14 percent saying they were “extremely concerned.” The United Nations found similarly encouraging results from its Global Compact-Accenture Strategy CEO Study, which aimed to assess CEO response to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals. The UN’s survey found 87 percent of global CEOs polled viewed the goals as an opportunity to reassess their company’s sustainability practices.

Of course beyond consumer demand and the desire to do the right thing, another important factor drives companies to develop better sustainability practices — the potential to save money. As organizations continue to streamline processes with sustainability in mind, many are also realizing quantifiable cost savings from their efforts.

When companies find ways to both improve sustainability and realize cost savings, it’s a win for everyone!

Global scope, granular impact

The move toward sustainability is affecting every aspect of business, even down to packaging choices. The movement to reduce the volume of plastic grocery bags that enter the waste stream has spurred may grocery retailers to offer free or low-cost reusable cloth bags to customers. Response has been widely positive, with many customers embracing the opportunity to take product out of stores in an environmentally preferable manner. Publix alone has sold more than 13 million reusable cloth shopping bags since launching the initiative in 2007 — a move that has culled more than 1 million plastic grocery bags per day from the supply stream, according to The Natural Resources Defense Council.

Much of the focus on more sustainable packaging has settled on primary product packaging. Companies like Coca-Cola have focused on increasing the amount of packaging that can be recycled and making their packaging lighter. Walmart’s commitment to sustainable packaging is seen as industry-leading. The retail giant has taken numerous sustainability steps, from providing its vendors and suppliers with guidance in a Sustainable Packaging Playbook to adding the How2Recycle label on select Great Value and Equate products at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores.

Sustainable transport packaging

Transport packaging is another area where sustainability and cost savings can meet in a way that benefits businesses, consumers and the environment.

The environmental value proposition of reusable plastic containers for transporting grocery products is clear:

  • Most RPCs are both made from recycled materials and are 100 percent recyclable after their usable life is over. Replacing the use of virgin materials with recycled materials in manufacturing has a significant positive environmental impact, from preserving natural resources to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • RPCs also reduce the amount of packaging waste a grocery operation generates. Disposable packaging infuses tons of material into the waste stream every year. Even when a single-use packaging product is intended to be recycled, compliance with recycling best practices is uneven across the industry. Not every grocery retail operation will have the resources to properly recycle all packaging.
  • Because RPCs are both lightweight and sturdy, and make it easier to right-size every shipment, they help reduce fuel consumption by transport trucks and associated fuel costs.

Many of the aspects that make RPCs good for the environment also make them good for grocery businesses looking to realize cost savings from their transport packaging choices. Tosca helps our customers understand their potential cost savings through a customized cost analysis that illustrates the cost reductions they can realize through the use of RPCs.

Their eco-friendly nature and ability to reduce costs aren’t the only factors RPCs have going for them. Circling back to consumer demand, studies show consumers respond positively to RPCs when they’re incorporated into retail displays — something that’s easy to do as Tosca’s RPCs can go from truck to store shelf quickly and cost-effectively.