For the last five years, an annual study by Packaging Digest has shown sustainability’s steady growth as a driver of change and innovation in the packaging sector. Unfortunately, though, data from this year’s survey indicates that this momentum might be slowing.
The Sustainability in Packaging study is the longest running benchmarking survey on this topic in the industry, and the September 2011 drew 674 responses from a cross section of the packaging industry, including consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs), retailers, packaging services and converters, as well as machinery and materials suppliers.
Here are a few key findings:
- The number of respondents reporting high or moderate familiarity with the issues of sustainability dipped to 80 percent in 2011, versus 83 percent in the 2010 survey –although that’s still well above the 52 percent at the same level of familiarity in 2007, the first year the survey was conducted.
- While more than half (55 percent) of survey respondents said the emphasis on sustainability has grown within their company in 2011, 41 percent said the emphasis has stayed the same. Only 31 percent thought so in 2010.
- When asked how they would rate their company’s success in achieving sustainability, less than one quarter said the business they work for had achieved levels beyond similar companies.
- Survey participants cited consumer demand, pricing pressure and retailer/brand owner requirements as the main influences on companies’ sustainable packaging efforts.
- Why are companies scaling back their activities in sustainable packaging? Not surprisingly, the survey found that economic conditions were a major reason for many businesses.
Even though these new study results show slippage in some areas, that doesn’t mean sustainability’s importance among packagers has declined. Its impact is still growing, just at a slightly slower pace.
As John Kalkowski, Packaging Digest editorial director, points out, packaging accounts for one of the largest employment sectors across all US manufacturing. “At the same time, packaging is used and thrown away each day by virtually all consumers, making it an obvious target to control through sustainable activities,” he said.
More details are available at www.packagingdigest.com/SustainableSurvey.