War on Plastics. Packaging as a Vehicle for Sustainability.

Plastic seems to be everywhere these days. In the air, in the ocean, around our food, in our food and now also inside of us. But times are changing and after years of hiding in the dark, brands are now releasing new and more environmentally friendly packaging to break our plastic addiction.

Consumers’ perceptions of single-use plastics have shifted and several established companies like Carlsberg and Starbucks are adapting in order to win over the growingly conscious consumers. While the 60s and 70s represented the height of plastic fascination, our decade is officially all about sustainability.

In sync with the audience

According to Boston Consulting Group, half of American Millennials between 18 and 24-years-old and 38% of 25 to 34-year-olds say that their choice of brand defines who they are and reflects their inner values. In other words, Millennials are more likely to buy a product if it correlates with their convictions. Either through a personal connection, an idea of exclusiveness or sustainable ambitions. The need for environmentally friendly packaging is, therefore, becoming more relevant for brands that have a huge use of plastics and packaging in general.

By connecting the brand to a cause it can provide conscious consumers with an opportunity to support something they believe in. Something that goes beyond a good product, creating a deep and long-term connection between shopper and brand, while causing less environmental harm. Something that is only underlined by a recent survey by Nielsen, which shows that 81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.

Walk the Talk

Sustainable ambitions are a step in the right direction, but brands also need to deliver on their promises. Studies from IESE Business School in Madrid show that hollow promises harm a brand’s trustworthiness, reputation and market value if their announcements and intentions are not followed through by actual actions. As researcher Magali A. Delmas and Vanessa C. Burbano state, greenwashing can have a damaging effect on consumers and investors’ trust towards green products and environmentally friendly companies, which make stakeholders cautious about rewarding businesses for their environmentally friendly initiatives.

Many of us still remember Volkswagen’s ‘dieselgate’. The company had software installed in their cars, so they could pass environmental tests. A scandal that has haunted them ever since. So if brands are serious about driving change, they need to walk the talk. This is obviously easier said than done. So while bold claims might give you some headlines, it is real actions that will drive the change required to save the future of both our planet – and seemingly your brand too.

Indonesian water giant AQUA shows a way to walk the talk. As part of their Bijak Berplastik (‘Plastic Wisdom’) campaign, they have recently launched a 100% recyclable water bottle made from 100% recycled plastic. Read more here and how we helped out with the design.

This article was originally written in Danish for Kommunikationsforum.