David Roberge

By: David Roberge on September 27th, 2018

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Why Your Product Needs Sustainable Labeling

Packaging Materials | Environment | The Business of Packaging | Investment | Packaging Design | Food Packaging | Packaging Psychology

A brand’s commitment to adopting environmentally conscious practices has become increasingly important to today’s consumers. As more people recognize the need for environmental awareness, shoppers are showing a preference for companies that take steps to reduce their environmental impact and ecological footprint. So where does sustainable labeling fit into the mix, and how can it help boost trust in your product? Here’s what you need to know.



The most recent Sustainable Packaging Study, an annual research project conducted by Packaging Digest and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, reveals that 92% of respondents think sustainability in packaging has never been more important.


Even so, many brands are intimidated by the perception that sustainable packaging, which encompasses a variety of ecologically friendly materials, practices and design ideas, is costly and difficult to implement.


The truth is there are a number of ways you can benefit from embracing packaging sustainability including a competitive edge in your industry, more market share from eco-conscious shoppers and even bottom-line savings as a result of resource-efficient designs.


To reap the full advantages of an eco-friendly approach to packaging, it’s crucial to pay close attention to your labels. Doing so elicits more trust in your brand and provides the necessary information for consumers to dispose of the packaging appropriately.


Use the following tips and insights to understand the importance of sustainable labeling and how to integrate it effectively with your packaging process.


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Are You Owning Label Accuracy?


Accurate end-of-life labeling ensures that your packaging materials end up in the right place. Given the heightened environmental consciousness of modern consumers, you want to be able to help them dispose of their product packaging properly. It is crucial for this information to come from your brand and for it to be completely accurate.


As you may know, proper recycling of plastics is fundamental to environmental preservation. But simply using Resin Identification Codes – those chasing arrows surrounding a certain number to denote the resin of a particular plastic – is not enough to communicate the recyclability of the package. You need consistent and transparent on-package recycling information, as demonstrated by How2Recycle.


A recent Carton Council Survey indicates that 86% of respondents expect food and beverage brands to actively help increase recycling of the packages they use for their products. In fact, incomplete or inaccurate information can cause consumers to lose trust in your brand.


“If the consumer needs to take some kind of action before recycling a package,” explains Packaging Digest, “or if only part of the package is recyclable, then this should clearly be communicated on the packaging along with any recyclability claims, so that the consumer is not misled into unintentionally contaminating the recycling stream. Once you have determined the recyclability of your package, it’s important to give consumers clear, concise recycling instructions.”


Inaccurate labeling could also put your company at risk of legal ramifications. The Federal Trade Commission has issued Green Guides to help brands ensure that the claims they are making are true and substantiated.


If your labels make any unqualified recycling claim based on this criteria, you’re violating FTC guidelines, which can result in legal action and costly penalties.

What’s Really in it for You?


There’s no way around it: Today’s consumers are more likely to buy products that are “green.” Take a look at some of the telling statistics compiled by Nielsen:


  • 55% of global online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact
  • 52% of global respondents say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact
  • Among global respondents who are responsive to sustainability actions, half are Millennials (age 21-34), representing 51 percent of those who will pay extra for sustainable products and who check the packaging for sustainable labeling.


Let’s not underestimate the value in that last statistic. Millennials are the growing population of consumers, and they make up a huge portion of the general market base. By catering to their desire to purchase products that focus on sustainability, you have an opportunity to claim your stake in that market share.


Regardless of which age group you’re marketing to, though, the bottom line is that environmental impact matters. According to a survey released by the Pew Research Center, 74% of U.S. adults said the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment. 75% say they are particularly concerned about helping the environment as they go about their daily lives.


But people can be confused by vague and inaccurate (or completely nonexistent) packaging labels. Since most consumers aren’t experts on how to recycle or read end-of-life labels, you can elevate your reputation as a “green” brand by providing clear instructions on your packaging. Greater recognition in the sustainability category equals greater trust in your brand and more opportunity for sales.


Where Do You Go From Here?


Having sustainable packaging accompanied by clear and accurate labeling is more essential than ever. The good news is that you don’t have to be afraid of the change.


Sourcing sustainable materials and incorporating them into your packaging design with effective labeling is easier than you might think. Of course, it’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s worth the time to make a plan for the next few years.


It’s especially advantageous to work with a packaging partner that has an abundance of experience in the area of sustainable packaging and labeling.


Rely on the expertise of a company with the operational capability to help you remain cost-competitive while satisfying your unique product and package quality requirements, and that provides parts sourcing, localized technical service, contract packaging and consultative services for packaging line optimization.


The benefits are undeniable. You have the potential to reduce your carbon footprint, expand your brand into new markets, increase sales and reduce the amount of money you’re spending on packaging materials. It’s time to make the smart move.


If you want to take the next step toward becoming a more sustainability-minded brand, there’s no better way to get started than by downloading your free Packaging Efficiency Cheat Sheet.

About David Roberge

Part of the outstanding Industrial Packaging team. I'm lucky to hang out with some of the most knowledgeable folks in the packaging industry. I feel even luckier to be able to share our knowledge with you. I love learning about our readers and helping them grow their brand through unique, flexible package design from the birth of the product idea, through the supply chain, and to the launch and placement on the shelf or at the consumer's door.