SPC IMPACT – Moving into the Future Together, Sustainably
The packaging industry is facing several challenges as it seeks to become more sustainable and resilient in the face of economic and environmental pressures. These challenges include commodity and supply chain shocks, rapidly changing consumer preferences, and new regulations around single-use waste. To meet these challenges, packaging companies are increasingly focused on sustainability, including circularity, recyclability, and reducing GHG emissions across the value chain. However, there is no one packaging substrate that performs well on all these dimensions. In addition, consumers remain confused about sustainable packaging and their role in making it happen.
Despite these challenges, 75% of organizations have sustainable packaging commitments, although only 1/3 of them are currently well prepared to meet these goals. To succeed in the future, CPG’s, retailers and packaging companies will need to focus on efficient designs that are optimized for the entire value chain, as well as new materials such as compostable and plant-based substrates. Meeting these goals will require a collaborative effort from brands, packaging companies, regulators, communities, and consumers alike.
The event was filled with over 800 attendees. The conversation around sustainability is taking a new turn. The data is now readily available to support the fact that consumers are ready for the change meaning they want to support brands that are delivering ways to live a more sustainable and regenerative lifestyle. In many cases, this means they are willing to pay an upcharge.
Here are 5 key take-aways from the event. How can you apply these in your work, home and community?
5 Key Take-aways
Lean Into Pre-Competition Collaboration
The concept of pre-competition collaboration around sustainability is a game-changer in the world of business. In the past, businesses would compete, regardless of the effects on the environment or society. However, the tide is turning, and more and more businesses are realizing the importance of sustainability. By collaborating before competition, businesses can work together to come up with solutions to environmental and social issues, rather than competing against each other to maximize resources. This new approach also has the potential to create new business opportunities and increase profitability. Working together, businesses can share knowledge and resources, research and data, and develop sustainable practices that benefit everyone involved. The benefits of collaboration around sustainability are endless. It promotes sustainability, reduces waste, conserves resources, and helps to build a more sustainable future. Pre-competition collaboration is a step in the right direction towards creating a more sustainable world. It is an exciting time for businesses to come together and make a positive impact on the environment and society.
The Intersection of Inclusivity and Sustainability
The intersection of inclusivity and sustainability was a key topic that was discussed throughout the conference. Including all individuals and their unique experiences in the conversation will ensure we are incorporating topics that can help us to achieve the scale we need to take action.
Nicole Lowry, HR Business Partner, shared that sustainability is unique to each person and can be seen through two lenses – tangible (such as solar energy and recycling) and intangible (including communities and experiences). She emphasizes the importance of creating non-homogenized environments and involving individuals in conversations about sustainability, as they want to influence how their lives are impacted. Lowry also notes that at the core of sustainability efforts, there is community, and a shared vision does not necessarily mean everyone holds the same beliefs. To achieve sustainability, she stressed the importance of ecological integrity, economic security, and social wellbeing. Finally, Lowry highlights the significance of establishing an idea of importance before talking to someone to avoid cutting them out of the conversation.
Microsoft’s Christina Mallen, who became paralyzed 12 years ago, spoke about the lack of inclusion in products for people with disabilities. She spoke of how big companies view them as charity cases instead of primary consumers and highlights the mismatch between a person’s ability and their environment. Mallen emphasized that exclusion is a choice and designing a better world requires an interrogation of how we build.
1 in 5 individuals have a permanent disability and 4 in 5 love these people with a disability. In addition, 28% of gen-pop do not have a disability, while 78% have either a temporary, permanent disability or care for a loved one that does. Mallen also identified the 12 dimensions of inclusivity, starting with recognizing exclusion when we solve problems based on our own biases.
Inclusion can increase a company’s bottom line, as 70% of consumers prefer to buy brands that are inclusive, and inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative. Mallen highlighted the importance of designing products and environments that are inclusive for all individuals, regardless of ability. By recognizing exclusion and learning from diversity, companies can not only increase their bottom line but also create a better world for all.
Gamers with disabilities helped design the new Xbox Adaptive Controller’s accessible packaging.
How do we close the intention-behavior gap?
For years research has shown that consumers want to be a part of creating a more sustainable world but there has been a gap between this intention and the behaviors that support it. This is where brand owners, retailers and packaging developers can step in, collaborate and help to deliver cost-effective, sustainable solutions to meet consumer desires. There was a lot of discussion around the power and responsibility of the branding and packaging industry to make paradigm shifts and change the world. One key theme was the importance of taking bigger swings and not allowing fear or rejection to limit one’s actions. Encouraging collaboration and education to achieve greatness in individual lanes while working together towards a common goal is another key theme we continue to hear. There is a need for diversity of thought and inclusion in different communities to promote innovation. To maximize the benefits, sustainability and employee well-being should be top priority. Another important factor is utilizing adjacent data and learning from past mistakes to move towards action. Overall, we heard a call to action for proactive engagement from the branding and packaging industry to make a positive impact on sustainability.
Addressing habits to change behavior
Dr. Wendy Woods discussed the gap between what people say they will do and what they actually do when it comes to environmental concerns such as reducing plastic usage. Although 72% of consumers claim to use less plastic, studies show that the average human still uses 4 oz per day. This is due to deeply engrained habits that are difficult to change. Dr. Woods presented the “Habit Formation Theory” and explained that habits take repetition to form and need to be made easy and rewarding to shift behavior. Old habits tend to be stronger than willpower, but creating better results can be achieved by changing features of the environment to make it easier. Habits form through repetition of context to response, creating mental shortcuts that help individuals meet their goals and get through the day. The key to changing behavior is to form new pathways by repeating desired behaviors and making them easy and rewarding.
Brands have the opportunity to communicate their sustainability efforts along the entire consumer journey – the more the better. Whether online or brick & mortar, be repetitive and consistent. Consider how you can educate consumers on your corporate initiatives, product attributes, through to how your packaging should enter the waste stream. A study using biometric research with eye tracking was shared regarding the impact that sustainable messaging had on shoppers during a direct-to-consumer purchase path found that consumers had little familiarity with sustainability logos, with 79% being unfamiliar with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The pilot study revealed that 48% of participants purchased online multiple times per week, and Amazon and Patagonia were perceived as environmentally conscious brands.
In addition, more education is needed in municipal areas on recycling, recyclability and compostability. In a consumer sentiment survey, by McKinsey, compostability is now at the top of the list of packaging preferences while there is a decrease in consumers valuing appearance. However, there is still confusion around what can be done with compostable packaging and which municipalities will take it. In other words, these new packaging formats are important but we all have to consider the infrastructures in place to actually follow through on the promise each have.
Our team left with a renewed sense of optimism around the broad topic of sustainability. For those of us that are passionate about it and have been trying to push it forward, it can become exhausting at times trying to bring others along on the journey. The conversation has gained the importance it deserves and it is imperative as we need to take action, now. There was also a lot of information that was shared that we can take back, incorporate into our work and lives each day to drive change forward. In many cases, it can be about some of the smaller habits we change on a daily basis. We can also communicate with the brands we love – asking them to rethink what they are creating and how they are delivering it. We can also take a stand on topics within our own communities and be a part of helping to ensure the infrastructure is there. We are all in this together and this is surely something we will all succeed or fail at together. Let’s succeed, together, beyond anything we can imagine.