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Packaging Companies Say Sustainability Gaining Traction

Nov. 6, 2009 - Environmental awareness on the part of consumers continues to grow and companies that handle packaging of consumer goods are placing increasing emphasis on sustainability, according to the third annual “Sustainability in Packaging” study sponsored by Packaging Digest and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC).

More than 1,000 packaging industry professionals participated in the survey.

“This survey is an important tool to see how companies are changing their packaging operations to address environmental challenges," said Anne Johnson, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

“Not only are companies more aware of the environmental impacts of packaging, but they are taking concrete steps to reduce those impacts by minimizing materials, waste, energy, and measuring their progress through defined sustainability metrics," Johnson added

Some revealing data from respondents:

  • 41 percent said they are very familiar with the issues of sustainability versus 21 percent in the 2007 survey.
  • 68 percent said the emphasis on sustainable packaging has increased in the last year, while only 4 percent said they’ve seen a decrease in emphasis.
  • Nearly nine out of 10 said that sustainability is a consideration in packaging-design decisions, although just 21 percent said it is a very important factor.
  • Walmart and Procter & Gamble were identified most often as leaders on environmental issues involving packaging.
  • Only 21 percent said their companies have formal, written sustainability policies. Another 22 percent said they have informal, unwritten guidelines, and 28 percent have none at all.
  • The most common policy guidelines included recycled content specifications, bans or limits on specific material usage and new design guidelines.
  • 53 percent said their business has no measurement tool in place to evaluate performance or track the progress of sustainability activities.

John Kalkowski, Editorial Director for Packaging Digest pointed out that Walmart, with 441 mentions, has had the most impact on sustainability when respondents were asked to identify corporate leaders on environmental issues.

"Although participants identified more than 100 companies with environmental leadership qualities, Procter & Gamble was the only company beside Walmart to garner more than 100 mentions," Kalkowski wrote in an editorial.

Few setting out policies

In his editorial, Kalkowski said that, in 2009, only 21 percent of respondents say their companies have formal, written policies on sustainability, while another 22 percent say the companies have informal, unwritten guidelines and 28 percent have none at all. The most common guidelines included in these policies are recycled content specifications, bans or limits on specific material usage and new design guidelines.

Still, 53 percent said their business has no measurement tool in place to evaluate performance or track the progress of company sustainability activities, Kalkowski noted.

When asked what developments are most needed to achieve their company goals, 51 percent of participants cited better, new materials and improved education and training, Kalkowski said.

Better collection and recovery methods, which received the most mentions in 2008, slipped to 41 percent of the vote from 49 percent, he said.

The use of recycled or recyclable materials were listed as high priorities among respondents' companies. In addition, 59 percent say that the use of recycled materials is the primary criterium their companies use to evaluate sustainable packaging, Kalkowski added.

SOURCE: Packaging Digest




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