Blog Post

Leveraging sustainable packaging to improve your brand’s image

Sustainability
Marketing

What is sustainable packaging?

According to a 2023 McKinsey report, around 90% of shoppers think the environmental impact of packaging is important to some degree.  

Customers increasingly consider sustainable packaging when making their purchases, meaning brands need to pay attention.  

Sustainable packaging is environmentally friendly wrapping made from things like recycled plastic or biodegradable materials. It supports a circular economy by reducing waste and encouraging reuse—and it can drive down emissions by improving supply chain efficiency.  

Simply put, packaging and sustainability come hand in hand. Businesses that embrace sustainable branding are gaining a market edge, winning over conscious consumers, and contributing to a more sustainable future. This guide will show you exactly how it’s done.  

Are you looking for branded packaging that packs a punch, attracts the right customers and supports the planet? Sourceful can help. Connect with our experts to elevate your brand’s packaging today.

Understanding sustainable packaging

Over the last few years, sustainability has become crucial to business operations. And in 2023, 98% of CEOs surveyed agreed that sustainability was critical to their role.  

Growing consumer appetite has largely prompted this push toward sustainability. More and more shoppers are supporting brands that showcase commitments to the environment, and this trend isn’t going away.  

But why is sustainable packaging important? Packaging is often the first encounter that customers have with your business, so you can see how sustainable materials can benefit your brand image. But there are also other perks:  

  • Improves brand image: Packaging and sustainability come hand in hand. Embracing sustainable packaging shows you’re responsible, which can attract consumers and investors. By putting planet over profit, you can create a positive brand image while building trust among your customer base.  

What’s more, sustainable packaging isn’t just good for the planet; it usually looks better. Clean aesthetics, natural colours, and innovative design features help elevate your brand’s perception among shoppers while giving your products a premium feel.  

 

  • Attracts environmentally conscious consumers: Many customers are adjusting their purchasing habits based on environmental factors. Two-thirds of people surveyed in 2023 said it’s vital that packaging can be recycled, while 33% chose against making purchases because of unsustainable packaging.  

Switching to sustainable packaging also presents a financial opportunity. Around 82% of shoppers are willing to pay more for products in sustainable packaging, meaning you could actually improve your bottom line. This financial benefit and the positive environmental impact should give you the confidence to transition.  

  • Contributes to global sustainability efforts: Around 91% of packaging waste ends up in landfills or our oceans, negatively impacting the environment and wildlife. By switching to sustainable packaging, brands can be part of the solution—reducing unnecessary waste while enhancing their brand’s image.  

  • Makes your brand stand out: We’re living through a sustainability boom. In the UK alone, business spending on sustainability is predicted to increase by 260% from 2018 to 2030. However, many brands still overlook packaging and focus on developing products instead. Adopting sustainable packaging (and doing it right) presents a unique opportunity to stand out in an increasingly saturated sustainable market.

The power of sustainable packaging - case studies

Many industry leaders have already switched to sustainable packaging, recognising the benefits. From cosmetic heavyweights to food and beverage behemoths, these brands demonstrate the power of sustainable packaging:

Lush Cosmetics: Leading the way in plastic-free packaging

Lush Cosmetics’ brand strategy has always centred on supporting the environment, and its packaging strategy is no different. Lush adopted a multi-pronged approach, ditching unnecessary wrapping, encouraging bulk buys, and working with recycled materials.  

As their ‘naked’ online orders are free from plastic wrapping, Lush saves more than half a million cellulose wrappers from going to waste each year. The boxes, which include eco-flo chips instead of polystyrene, are also easily recognisable, coming in branded cardboard boxes with a simplistic, natural feel — instantly speaking to their brand image.  

innocent Drinks: Making Recycling Easy and Appealing

innocent, a drink and smoothie manufacturer, is another example of a brand getting the packaging right. Its bottles are made from 50% recycled plastic and 15% plant plastic, and they reduced the weight of its bottles by 2,500 tonnes between 2020 and 2023.

innocent features playful messages on its packages with instructions on how to dispose of them. This personal messaging helps boost their brand perception, showing they care about the planet and want to help consumers do the same.  

The Body Shop: Championing refillable and returnable packaging solutions

Studies have shown that customers want to get involved, with 53% admitting they’re more likely to shop from a brand that offers refillable, returnable packaging.  

The Body Shop demonstrates the power of sustainable packaging by focusing on refillable and returnable products. The brand is now rolling out refill stations globally, allowing customers to bring in empties to fill up in-store and return their containers. This strategy empowers their customers, helping them feel like they’re doing their part while helping to reduce unnecessary plastic waste.

Steps to Transition to Sustainable Packaging

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to getting sustainable packaging right. Some brands opt for recycled materials, others offer refillable containers, while some downsize packaging to reduce transport emissions. And there are so many packaging trends to choose from.  

Sustainable packaging is a journey; the results don’t have to happen overnight. The brands we’ve mentioned are constantly developing their sustainable packaging, showing the importance of having long-term goals. Here are our tips on kickstarting the transition.

  1. Audit  

To start your sustainable branding journey, you should have a solid overview of existing company practices and sustainability data. A sustainability audit examines your carbon footprint, waste impact, and social initiatives to identify areas for improvement.

When assessing your existing packaging, consider the cost-effectiveness of the materials and whether its design and messaging speak to your brand’s identity.  

Frameworks and services are available online to help you conduct a sustainability audit. This information can also help you prepare for evolving environmental regulations while ensuring transparency about sustainability initiatives.  

  1. Planning

Planning and designing sustainable packaging is exciting, as you can get creative. Go bold, develop unique features that appeal to your audience, and try out innovative new technology and materials.  

However, you need to weigh the costs of creating your packaging, its functionality, and its broader environmental impact. Teaming up with sustainable packaging experts like Sourceful can streamline this process and provide you with an analysis of the best types of packaging based on your customers’ unique needs.  

  1. Implementation  

After perfecting your sustainable packaging, you can then start the rollout. However, the work doesn’t end there. You’ll also need to track the effectiveness of your new packaging and be prepared to improve it based on the information you collect from customers. Consider exploring ways to get your new packaging more exposure: user-generated content like unboxing videos is a great place to start.

 

Ready for a smarter faster more sustainable packaging process?

Challenges in Implementing Sustainable Packaging

We make packaging sound like a breeze, but we know the transition to sustainability can be challenging. Around 71% of respondents in a 2022 survey said it’s more difficult to ensure the quality control of environmentally friendly packaging, while 43% of brands are also concerned about the costs.

We understand these concerns can delay the transition to sustainable packaging, but it’s usually worth the investment. Here’s what you need to know:  

  1. Cost: Every brand's sustainable packaging journey is unique, so the cost implications of transitioning vary massively. Changing the status quo may require some investments, but the long-term benefits outweigh short-term expenditures. Take IKEA, for example, which optimised its packaging to reduce space, saving €1.2m a year.  

  1. Availability: Many sustainable options are available, but finding the right one for your company can feel overwhelming. Availability can be challenging, mainly if your packaging relies on specific or less common resources. However, demand in this space is growing, suggesting supply will expand as sustainable packaging becomes the norm.  

  1. Regulatory compliance: Future regulation will pressure businesses to do their bit for the planet. This may involve extended producer responsibility (EPR), which deems brands responsible for waste produced by their products. Some brands may want to wait and see what regulation emerges before switching, but getting ahead of the curve may offer a competitive edge when others are still figuring out packaging.  

  1. Supply chain complexity: Adopting sustainable packaging often requires new partnerships and adjustments to packaging processes. While this may lead to delays, proactively planning for these changes can help smooth the transition and lessen the impact. Working with a sustainable packaging specialist can also help ensure everything goes smoothly.  

Conclusion

A packaging revolution is here. By embracing eco-friendly packaging, you’re not just helping the planet—you’re also creating a sustainable brand image.  

Consumers increasingly expect brands to take their environmental responsibility seriously, and packaging is a perfect place to start.  

The long-term benefits to your brand image and the planet suggest there has never been a better time to get started.  

Are you ready to kick off your sustainable packaging journey?  Speak to our specialists today.

sourceful insights
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