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Published September 27, 2019
Published September 27, 2019
Ed van Duijn via Unsplash

The beauty industry is experiencing a big pivot. Sustainability isn’t a trend—it is becoming the new normal, and brands that don’t start evolving their practices just might find themselves extinct. Packaging is one of the current sustainability challenges, especially for beauty brands that have been built on creating perceived value through packaging. Sustainable packaging leader BillerudKorsnäs provides insights on why business practices matter and how to develop processes to achieve your sustainable packaging goals in a recently released e-book.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EuroStat:

  • Paper and cardboard accounted for 35.4 million tons of waste in the European Union in 2016, while plastic and glass comprised 16.3 million tons of waste.
  • Containers and packaging are responsible for 70.7 million tons of American municipal solid waste, nearly one-third of MSW.
  • Landfills received 26.7 million tons of containers and packaging waste in 2015, accounting for about 21.4% of total landfill waste in the US.
  • Corrugated boxes were the largest single product category of American MSW in 2015 at 31.3 million tons generated, or about 11.9% of total waste generation.

Most heritage and multi-national brands have developed sustainability strategies and goals that will be achieved in the next 5-10 years. True sustainability is far more complicated than the choice of a component. Packaging sustainability encompasses everything from design to production to disposal, and should impact decisions in both the manufacturing process and materials used.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s (SPC) definition of sustainable packaging:

  • Is beneficial, safe, and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
  • Meets market criteria for performance and cost
  • Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
  • Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials
  • Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
  • Is made from materials that are healthy throughout the life cycle
  • Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy
  • Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed-loop systems

So where do you start? Beauty is a packaging-intense product category, so focusing on packaging is a first step in reducing a company’s environmental footprint. Developing a sustainable packaging program involves an entire organization, so it requires a strategy and process.

Who’s Involved?

1. Suppliers and Vendors: Evaluation of how your current suppliers and vendors impact sustainability efforts, and how their own guidelines for sustainability compare to your own is critical. 2. Packaging Designers and Engineers: Should be involved early in your strategy development to ensure the best possible results because they influence the type and amounts of materials in your packaging. 3. Project Managers: Direct conversations with suppliers, vendors, and other key packaging personnel. Ensure your project managers understand how to measure and report on sustainability KPIs. 4. The C-Suite: Executive buy-in is critical for any sustainable packaging initiative. Get their support by highlighting the ways your sustainable packaging program impacts high-level business goals.

Challenges to Anticipate

1. Organizational Challenges: The purpose and reasoning must be clearly communicated to employees, stakeholders, and customers, especially when it impacts the way your business and/or products are perceived. 2. Data Collection: Is crucial to ensure financial viability, holds your partners accountable, and provides concrete information to substantiate your positioning and progress to customers. 3. Resource and Budget Constraints: Sustainable packaging can look prohibitively expensive. When approaching budget approval for your program, be prepared with estimated costs and the anticipated ROI.

The Process

1. Define Program Objectives: Outline both short-term and long-term objectives that will be used to track the success. 2. Select Appropriate Metrics and Indicators: Before launching, establish how you’ll measure progress. 3. Identify Areas of Focus: Minimizing operational disruption will help achieve 100% sustainability more efficiently. 4. Establish a Baseline: Articulate where you are now and establish benchmarks for where you want to be to ensure both short-term and long-term growth. 5. Set Priorities: Determine which areas of your current packaging program have the most opportunity for improvement. Quick wins will build momentum and confidence in the program.

“Companies operating more sustainably slash costs, manage risks better, drive innovation and build brand value. They’re more profitable. And on the specific issue of carbon footprint, the rapid and dramatic improvement in the economics of clean technology means companies can reduce their emissions and energy use, and make money doing it. In short, sustainability isn’t remotely at odds with profits.” said Andrew Winston, corporate advisor and founder of Winston Eco-Strategies.

Developing and executing a sustainable packaging program isn’t easy, but it’s worth the challenge for both the planet and your bottom line.

Download the BillerudKorsnäs e-book Designing a Sustainable Packaging Program.


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