Sustainable Packaging Program Checklist

If you want to move toward sustainable packaging, this checklist will help you get there.

Take advantage of the first impression that customers have of your product via your packaging to show them that sustainability matters to you. 

For a successful program, it is essential to have buy-in from company executives. It is encouraging that already more than 90% of surveyed CEOs say that sustainability is important to business success, according to Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The business benefits of sustainability are clear. Some include:

  • 86% of consumers want companies to stand for social issues, and 64% are likely to buy from companies that do, according to a study by the Shelton Group.
  • 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on items sold by companies with an explicit social good purpose, according to the Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report.
  • A global consumer study from Unilever found that effectively marketing sustainable goods could represent a more than $1 trillion market opportunity for companies.

Using sustainable packaging serves customer demand and may increase cost savings. It can also lessen the environmental impact and thus lower packaging costs.

Once you have buy-in to move forward, use the following checklist to stay on track.

Sustainable packaging program checklist

This checklist outlines the steps you should take for a successful sustainable packaging program.

1. Conduct a packaging audit

Examine your current packaging and supply chain first to get an idea of where packaging improvements can be made. A packaging audit is a critical look at your current packaging using material analysis and performance testing to identify strengths and weaknesses of materials.

A packaging audit determines how package design relates to product damage, space utilization,  and supply chain hazards, looking at factors like:

  • Handling drop and impact
  • Transportation vibration
  • Stacking load and compression
  • Atmospheric conditions

Testing and evaluating packaging throughout the distribution chain can uncover sustainability opportunities.

Another critical part of an audit as part of a sustainable packaging program is a life-cycle assessment (LCA). An LCA examines sources of environmental impact from creation to end of life for each packaging unit. It looks at the supply of raw materials for packaging, how the packaging is used and what happens after the packaging is disposed of.

An LCA will give your business an idea of how each packaging product affects the environment. You can compare that data with other packaging LCAs and adopt improvements.

2. Create sustainable packaging program goals

In 2017, retailer Target declared five major sustainability goals to achieve by 2022, which means any products that appear on Target’s shelves and e-commerce store will be expected to have the same sustainable packaging goals. 

Your sustainable packaging program goals should be both short-term and long-term. They can relate to:

  • Environmental impact: Using the results of your LCA, you could aim to decrease carbon dioxide emissions or water usage, for example.
  • Packaging material use: You may find that you want to shift to how much packaging material you use for each product.
  • Packaging materials: You may set a goal to completely phase out the use of a material like plastic, or make all packaging materials recyclable, for example.

3. Prioritize tactics

Use your goals to determine what areas of packaging you want to prioritize to make meaningful impact and keep operations efficient. Seeing progress can build momentum for a move toward sustainable packaging, both for how your employees adjust to the program and the response you get from customers.

The implementation phase will involve:

  • Communicating with suppliers and vendors
  • Developing strategy with packaging designers and engineers
  • Educating project managers who work with packaging personnel

Moving toward a sustainable packaging program is also a culture shift for your company. While many on your team will view it positively, sustainable changes may face challenges. Be prepared to handle how to communicate the transition to stakeholders and customers, and how to make the business case for sustainable packaging related to budgets and resources.

4. Define measurement

To determine whether your sustainable packaging plan is working, you will need to have measurement tools in place to monitor progress. The Consumer Goods Forum recommends metrics your business might consider, including:

  • Packaging weight and optimization
  • Packaging-to-product weight ratio
  • Material waste
  • Recycled and renewable content
  • Substances hazardous to the environment
  • Packaging recovery and reuse rate
  • Cumulative energy demand

In addition to measuring changes to the packaging itself, businesses should look at how a sustainable packaging program affects sales and sentiment with customers. You may find that customers are not aware of or do not understand the program. In that case, you would want to adjust your awareness and education strategy for your sustainable packaging program.

We can help you optimize your program

Developing a sustainable packaging program can provide great dividends for your business. It is good for the planet, good for your customers, and it can increase your sales and improve your brand reputation. 

BillerudKorsnäs can help you complete the tasks mentioned in this sustainable packaging program checklist. We have built on more than 150 years in the forestry and paper industry to responsibly source sustainable raw materials and provide our clients with high-quality paper and packaging solutions that make perfect business sense. Wherever you are in your sustainable packaging journey, we are here to assist your business.

To learn more, check out our free ebook, Designing a Sustainable Packaging Program