September 26, 2021
Climate deniers look away. The business case for sustainable packaging

The simple answer - it's the right thing to do.

That might sound biased coming from a packaging company but the benefits of employing sustainable packaging as the new normal for business are clear.

If you've just woken from a ten-year coma single-use plastics (SUPs hereafter) are wreaking havoc on communities and the environment. 9 million metric tonnes of them enter our oceans every year. Marine ecosystems are suffering irreparable damage and seafood lovers might even find it on their plate.

The power of social

Given our addiction to the online world more of us are seeing the impact of SUP and demanding more action to mitigate them.

Blue Planet II poster
The Blue Planet Effect

In late 2017/ 2018 the problem of single-use plastic went mainstream across the globe with the broadcast of BBC's Blue Planet II. Galvanizing the efforts of NGO's and consumer groups and igniting a prolific rise in awareness and media coverage of plastic waste and the damage it's causing to the environment.

The impact

All around the world Governments and State Governments are legislating to prohibit the sale, supply, and distribution of specific single-use plastics products. Businesses are also stepping up to the plate with short and long-term pledges to move better systems and materials.

  • The UK Plastic Pact - Ban on the manufacture of certain products containing plastic microbeads came into effect.
  • China - Bans the import of plastic waste from around the world. 8.88 million tons.
  • IKEA - Start phasing out single-use plastics in their products where suitable alternatives don’t exist.
  • ANZ - All supermarkets ban the sale of single-use carry bags. NZ followed in Jan 2019.
  • Adidas x Parley - Announce it intends to sell 5 million pairs of shoes made from ocean plastics.
  • Collins Dictionary - Makes “single-use” its word of the year. Describing the word as ‘items whose unchecked proliferation are blamed for damaging the environment and affecting the food chain’.
  • Carlsberg introduce Snap back - To make their multipacks more sustainable, introduced the new Snap Pack, which reduces plastic usage through innovative glue technology.
  • New Plastics Economy Global Commitment - 400 commercial and governmental organizations including leading brands such as Unilever, Mars, and Pepsico sign the commitment, which aims to ensure 100% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.
  • European Union - EU introduces the Green New Deal to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 resulting in a cleaner environment, more affordable energy, smarter transport, new jobs, and overall better quality of life.
  • California - Single-Use Plastic Ban goes into effect March 2020.
  • New York - Enforce Single-Use Plastic Ban started in October 2020.
  • China - Ban all single-use and non-degradable plastic bags in major Chinese cities. By 2022 the ban will roll out across the country. Ban to also include single-use straws by the end of 2020.
  • European Union Single-Use Plastics Ban - Where sustainable alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products cannot be placed on the markets of EU Member States (July 2021).

The planet is heating up

It would be remiss to not also talk about climate change as the plastics industry is inextricably linked to the fossil fuel industry and by association greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, 11,000 scientists from 153¹ countries1 emphatically stated we're facing a climate emergency. Two years on the IPCC Climate Change report² states we could be 10 years away from heating by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius - a threshold beyond which even more serious and frequent fires, droughts, floods, and cyclones are expected to wreak havoc on humanity.

Climate model simulations show how human factors have contributed to a rise in global surface temperatures

IPCC data on change in global surfance temperature relative to 1850-1900
A strong sense of personal accountability has arisen globally
IPCC data on change in global surfance temperature relative to 1850-1900

Today's consumers are smart, well informed, and more importantly recognize the relationship humans are having on the planet.

Sustainability-related searches worldwide were relatively steady up until 2016 when we saw interest start to build significantly. From that point onwards searches skyrocket from 2018 to Jan 2020. We also see the goal of zero waste³ grow in popularity. The data illustrates our quest for both knowledge and perhaps a better way to do things.

Still sceptical?

Research conducted by the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business reviewed consumer purchasing of sustainability-marketed products in 36 CPG categories comprising ~40% of the total CPG market (the CPG market was valued in 2020 USD $2 trillion). Their analysis revealed sustainability-marketed products are responsible for more than half of the growth in CPG brands from 2015 to 2019, and that this growth continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

As shown by Sustainability Market Share Index, there is an economy-wide trend towards sustainability. Clearly illustrating shoppers buying the change they want to see in the world.

Sustainabile market share index from 2015-2019
Sustainability-Marketed Products and Total Category $ Volume by Month: 36 categories examined
The Shift


Switching to materials that reuse what is currently in circulation or that are derived from renewable resources helps to remove the strain we've placed on the planet. It also helps to drive important progress towards a circular economic system.

The benefits are clear:

  1. Reduces the reliance on virgin fossil fuels.
  2. Reduces greenhouse gas emissions (carbon, methane et al).
  3. Designing for recyclability (organic or mechanical) keeps materials working longer and keeps them out of landfill
  4. It creates value and demand for waste materials
  5. Strengthens brand image
  6. It aligns with the values of consumers
  7. Most importantly it is the right thing to do and there's no time to waste.

The seismic shift in consumer demand for products that go beyond doing no harm to actually tackling our most pressing challenges will be the new normal.

How your business is perceived in making the world better than it was yesterday will be the new barometer.

Grounded Packaging are suppliers of sustainable packaging solutions.

1 Ripple, W.J., Wolf, C., Newsome, T.M., Barnard, P., Moomaw, W.R (Jan, 2020) World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. BioScience Vol 70: 1.

2 IPCC Climate Report 2021

3 Zero Waste refers to the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of all products, packaging, and materials, without burning them, and without discharges to land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health.

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