By Beth Rush

Sustainability has gone mainstream. With more consumers switching to environmentally friendly brands, it’s become a central theme across all industries. CPG companies are pushed to evaluate and develop their environmental programs to appeal to their target audience. If your organization hasn’t plotted a goal yet, here are seven ways to adopt better sustainable packaging practices and include them as your objectives in the years ahead.

1. Aim for Carbon-Neutral Shipping

One of the major domains where businesses can improve is shipping. It’s no secret it produces significant amounts of greenhouse gasses contributing to the planet’s warming. However, it’s a core process that enterprises must do.

You can implement strategies to neutralize your generated carbon by first tracking your output and then redesigning your shipping routes to make them efficient. Doing so helps negate your footprint. Lastly, consider buying carbon credits to offset your shipping impact, like two-thirds of the biggest brands in the world.

2. Distribute in Bulk

One of the practices you can develop to complement your goal of going carbon-neutral is to make your distribution method effective. Implementing bulk delivery to all your channels — whether to your partners, e-commerce platforms or direct-to-consumer routes — can reduce transport frequency and minimize packaging waste.

Doing so promotes eco-consciousness in your actions. Plus, you get to enjoy a rollback in shipping expenses, allowing you to save on every delivery.

3. Shift to Bioplastics

The packaging itself is the area with the biggest room for improvement. Many firms still rely on plastic — especially polystyrene — to hold their goods. About 10%–40% of these waste products get carried to waterways, clogging the rivers and streams and posing a significant risk to wildlife and public health.

An excellent alternative to polystyrene is bioplastics, which are made of renewable resources like sugarcane, cornstarch and plastic-producing microorganisms. These sturdy materials can replace conventional petroleum-based plastics to make your packaging environmentally friendly. They promote a circular economy and have a lower carbon footprint and advantageous material properties. While they cost more, the return on investment on your reputation is undoubtedly worth it.

4. Leverage Smart Packaging

Thanks to technology, smart packaging can empower CPG companies and consumers to make informed decisions about their processes and consumption. For instance, your buyers can monitor the freshness and quality of their products in real time by scanning the sensors or indicators using their phones.

A label that changes colour can indicate a near-expiration date, which helps them decide whether they’re still worth buying. Such innovation can reduce food waste.

Alternatively, CPG organizations can incorporate QR codes or tracking technologies for each item they produce to support better inventory management. For example, they can use RFID tags to store supply chain information and track movement from production to shelves. These technology-driven sustainable packaging practices can optimize your operations and lessen your carbon footprint.

5. Design Reusable Packaging

You can also distribute goods in reusable packaging. Buyers can use it in multiple ways to reduce single-use waste. Some excellent options include reusable crates, glass, tote bags and refillable beverage kegs. To successfully apply this to your enterprise, consider washable, modular and repairable packaging. This way, it’s effortless for consumers to reuse.

For example, Nestle piloted refillable cereal vending machines in Indonesia for its Milo and Koko Krunch brands. Consumers brought their containers and refilled them using the machine, helping the brand advocate for global sustainability.

6. Use Edible Packaging

Another innovation CPG firms can consider is edible packaging. The wrapping materials are made of products that can be eaten, like vegetables, fruits or baked items. Examples include edible straws, spoons, coffee cups, and candy and cupcake wrappers. Using this strategy can shrink your packaging waste to zero and promote a circular approach.

A good example is Notpla  — a small London-based company that uses brown seaweed as a zero-waste substitute for packaging its goods. Ooho is an edible water bubble they’ve developed to make plastic completely disappear.

7. Integrate Plantable Packaging

Finally, there’s plantable packaging as an alternative to non-biodegradable containers. 

Businesses can use seed paper when wrapping their supplies. Instead of discarding the waste in the bin, consumers can bury it in the soil where it disintegrates and is replaced by growing herbs, flowers, or trees.

This method has been gaining popularity, empowering every consumer to transform their waste into thriving greenery. It’s the epitome of the zero-waste concept. CPG brands can incorporate it in their packaging to achieve zero waste in their product life cycle.

8. Boost Your Sustainable Packaging Practices

Today’s consumers are more eco-conscious, investing and buying from organizations that steward sustainability. It only makes sense to move in the same direction to stay relevant.

Challenges are inevitable when shifting to sustainable packaging. Integrating the above strategies has a long list of environmental merits, but the switch comes with spending concerns and operational hurdles. Nevertheless, its long-term return on investment and production cost savings are rewarding.

About the author:

* Managing Editor at Body+Mind beth@bodymind.com