• Boxed Water is packaging water in cardboard boxes, a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic bottles.
    Boxed Water is packaging water in cardboard boxes, a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic bottles.

Implementing sustainable packaging in a small-scale brand may pose challenges, but with careful planning, it's achievable. Anthony Partington, co-founder and creative director of branding agency Brandwell, advises on steps to integrate sustainable packaging into your practices.

Don't change everything at once

Transitioning to sustainable packaging requires a strategic and phased approach. Start by implementing changes gradually rather than overwhelming yourself and your team by revamping your entire packaging process immediately. Begin with one or two aspects of your packaging, such as replacing specific sizes or types of packaging materials. This incremental approach allows for thorough research, testing and adjustment, ensuring the successful implementation of sustainable initiatives without disruption.

Order product samples

Before committing to a new packaging solution, it's essential to assess its suitability and quality firsthand. Order product samples from potential suppliers or manufacturers to evaluate factors such as compatibility with your merchandise, durability, weight and size. Conducting a thorough assessment of these samples enables you to make informed decisions and select packaging materials that align with your brand's needs and sustainability goals.

Consider redesign

Introducing sustainable packaging alongside a brand redesign can enhance your brand's overall impact and perception. Consider integrating eco-friendly packaging solutions as part of your brand's visual identity, complementing design elements such as logos, colour palettes and design assets. This cohesive approach reinforces your brand's commitment to sustainability and creates a compelling brand image.

Adjust pricing

While sustainable packaging may initially entail additional costs, it's crucial to evaluate pricing strategies to maintain profitability. When pricing your products, factor in the expenses associated with sustainable materials and shipping costs. Determine whether absorbing these costs is feasible or if adjustments to product pricing are necessary to accommodate sustainability investments while remaining competitive in the market.

Packaging made from mushroom mycelium is on the uptake.

Order small volumes first

Testing your new sustainable packaging solutions in small volumes allows for practical evaluation and refinement before full-scale implementation. Order limited quantities of packaging materials to assess durability, customer reception and overall performance compared to existing packaging. Gradually increase order volumes as you transition to sustainable packaging, ensuring a seamless integration process.

Make sure you use all the old packaging first

Adopt a "First in, first out" (FIFO) approach to prioritise existing packaging inventory before transitioning to new sustainable packaging. This method ensures efficient resource utilisation and minimises waste by depleting old packaging stocks before introducing new materials. By following FIFO principles, you optimise inventory management and streamline the transition process effectively.

Promote new packaging and educate customers on the benefits

Communicate your commitment to sustainability and the benefits of your new packaging to customers through marketing and educational initiatives. Highlight the environmental advantages of eco-friendly packaging and encourage customers to recycle, compost, or reuse packaging materials. By raising awareness and fostering consumer engagement, you cultivate a loyal customer base aligned with your brand's sustainability values.

Make your brand recognised for its sustainability and environmentally friendly practices

H&M's sustainable packaging and hangers.
H&M's sustainable packaging and hangers.

Position your brand as a leader in sustainability by showcasing your commitment to environmentally friendly practices. Integrate sustainability messaging into your marketing campaigns and brand communications to highlight your efforts. Engage with stakeholders, suppliers, and customers to reinforce your brand's dedication to sustainability and create a positive impact on the environment. By aligning your brand with sustainability principles, you differentiate yourself in the market and build a reputation for responsible business practices.

It's also important to recognise that sustainability encompasses not just the packaging but also the entire product lifecycle, spanning from sourcing raw materials to disposal or recycling. While adopting sustainable packaging may take time and investment, the resulting reduction in environmental impact and establishment of a positive brand image outweigh the challenges.

Examples of brands that use sustainable packaging

The following examples demonstrate how industry giants have embraced sustainable packaging, leading to environmental stewardship and enhanced market value.

Boxed Water's innovative approach has been to package water in cardboard boxes, a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic bottles. Shipping flat to refilling stations further reduces its low carbon footprint, minimising transportation emissions and environmental impact.

ASOS Despite primarily focusing on fashion, ASOS steps up in packaging sustainability, reducing plastic usage with thinner mailer bags. By recycling customer return mailing bags and incorporating post-consumer waste into new bags, ASOS demonstrates a commitment to a cyclical fashion business model.

Nike's 'Move to Zero' initiative extends to packaging, exemplified by the 'Nike One Box' concept, eliminating the need for outer packaging. This innovative design cuts packaging waste by 51 per cent for single online orders and aligns with Nike's target of 10% waste reduction per unit by 2025.

Lifestyle worked with APCO on its condom packaging

Since 2009, Lifestyles has collaborated with APCO to minimise packaging-related environmental effects throughout Australia. In 2021, LifeStyles Healthcare pioneered eliminating cello wrap from their condom boxes.

Recognising the environmental impact of pallet wrapping during distribution, First Press Coffee transitioned to using Biogone's landfill-biodegradable pallet wrap. This eco-friendly solution allows them to securely package and distribute their products to numerous outlets, ensuring peace of mind with each delivery.

This is an abridged version of an article supplied by Brandwell and republished with permission.

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