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How to be more environmentally sustainable without busting your marketing budget


How can we be environmentally sustainable and still profitable? When it comes to packaging for your products, balancing your budget against the need to be more environmentally friendly can be a bit of a headache.

Some brands are showing that a simple shift in perspective makes it possible to optimise your budgets – even save money – and be more environmentally sustainable at the same time. They achieve this through innovation – because, when you think about it, doing anything the same way it’s always been done will only ever get the same results you’ve always got.

  • Brands are not pushing designers to be innovative. Materials are wasted and there are unnecessary costs for delivery due to packaging that’s not fit for purpose in all its environments.
  • Brands are making assumptions about customers’ expectations. Lack of innovation is failing to lead customer trends.

1. Push packaging designers to be innovative

Sustainable packaging design has its challenges. If you want to remove plastic Vacform inserts, the alternative materials like sugar cane or seaweed can be 60% more expensive. If you opt for a cardboard insert as a more cost-effective alternative, this generally adds 25% onto the cost of production because it’s fiddly and time-consuming to erect.

Do you choose to continue with Vacform? This non-recyclable material has no other use and will only end up in the customer’s wheelie bin at home – not great for your environmentally friendly image.

Product design at the manufacturing stage, for many brands, is treated the same for retail as for e-commerce. In other words, it’s made to look good on a shelf display and nobody thought to consult packing experts. The UK arguably has “the most advanced e-commerce market in Europe”. Online retail sales are expected to grow from 19% in 2019 to 34.5% by 2023.

So, right now is an incredible opportunity for brands to rethink product design to consider the needs of products in the e-commerce environment: from shelf to packaging; to e-commerce fulfilment; to delivery method. Where will it be seen? How will it get there? How will it be bought?

Key tips: re-engineer to save resources and money

  • Less is more. You don’t have to over-engineer the packaging. When we re-engineer, our packing experts tweak the packaging design to optimise the use of the materials. This cuts down waste and trims budgets because less is required.
  • We consider the delivery method and its associated costs. With Royal Mail, for example, this cost is driven by volumetrics; just weight. Poor product packing means you’ll be paying to carry fresh air.
  • More products could arrive through the letter box if the product, packaging and packing are reimagined: square instead of round, for example, and flatter where possible.
  • To save on material outlay and waste, products should be packaged for e-commerce fulfilment and store shelves uniquely. Thoughtful contract packing solutions for a product bought in store will ensure it arrives in pristine condition; the same product can have more robust packaging for e-commerce fulfilment.

Example of B2C contract packing and fulfilment

This client came to us to handle the fulfilment of a special offer. Their packaging design wasted materials, so we re-engineered it and saved the client money. Sometimes, a relatively simple re-orientation of the product will create less waste!

2. Innovate to meet customer expectations

Consumers are changing and brands must be brave. The great news is that brands are engaging with the idea of re-engineering, but we’re not quite there yet.

Packaging makes brands stand out and, especially with luxury brands, there is an expectation of the right look and feel. Brands do have the opportunity to lead (or get on board with) changing trends in consumer thinking.

Key tip: test new ideas

Be brave! Brands aren’t yet doing enough testing to see what will sit well with customers, what will work. They are making assumptions, which stalls innovation. In an age where we have so much data at our fingertips, assumption means stagnation; it’s anti-growth.

Test to see if your customers want exquisite packaging, or if they’ll accept a simpler approach. Experiment with different delivery types and see how they respond.

Example of B2B contract packing and distribution

Confidential test materials for an exam board needed to be sent out in bulk. We re-engineered the outer cartons to be able to get more into a box and more onto a pallet. This meant fewer pallets, which is cheaper – we created savings for the client on packaging and delivery.

In short: think differently, do better

Discover how doing things differently with packaging and contract packing gets better results.

Image by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

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