Marketers urged to make the most of their brands’ environmental credentials

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Marketing managers are being encouraged to make the most of environmental packaging credentials following a Europe-wide survey of 7,000 consumers which says that three in four are influenced by media coverage of packaging waste so significantly that it has affected their purchasing habits.

With demand for sustainable, environmentally-friendly packaging burgeoning, companies adopting sustainable practices and promoting their ethical standards through traditional and social media channels are more likely to win customers and their loyalty, according to Pro Carton, the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard Manufacturers.

The study canvassed consumers in seven countries – the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Poland, to discover their attitudes to packaging and how those attitudes effect what and where they buy. The European Consumer Packaging Perceptions report reveals that a major influence on consumer choices is the intense media focus fueled by increasingly urgent calls from environmental campaigners for the world to address the literal rising tide of unwanted waste, and that media coverage on packaging waste has influenced the purchasing habits of 74% of Europeans.

The research digs deeper into opinions of individual countries, and underlines the fact that marketers cannot afford to ignore the strength of consumer sentiment on the packaging debate: 64% of Brits already admit to switching brand or product because of packaging concerns, while 66% of UK shoppers say being environmentally-friendly is now more or very much more important to them with a similar number (68%) saying that the environmental impact of a product’s packaging now affects their purchasing behaviour.

However, consumers are not convinced that brands and retailers are doing enough with 72% of UK shoppers believing brands and retailers are not putting in sufficient effort to introduce more environmentally-friendly packaging, suggesting marketing professionals need to spend more time publicising products’ sustainable packaging – made of recyclable cartonboard, for example – whenever it is used.

Says Tony Hitchin, general manager, Pro Carton: “Unsustainable, single-use packaging is already a major turnoff for most shoppers, so those who don’t act quickly will increasingly find shoppers voting with their wallets to take their business elsewhere.

“And the argument for brands to switch to cartonboard/cardboard is certainly compelling. It is the most sustainable packaging alternative, plus of course it comes from trees grown in sustainably managed forests. Cartonboard is not only renewable but also fully recyclable and biodegradable, making it the perfect example of a circular economy.”

Hitchin adds: “Many businesses have already made big changes, but it’s up to marketing departments to shout about them so that consumers can see they are being listened to. The fast food market is leading the way in introducing cartonboard alternatives, often with natural biodegradable barriers, that provide more eco-friendly ways of packaging food-on-the-go. There is an opportunity to gain competitive advantage by acting quickly and move to truly sustainable packaging materials, instead of those that not only deplete the Earth of its natural resources but also potentially leave lasting scars on the planet.”