How to Make Sense of Sustainable Packaging

How to Make Sense of Sustainable Packaging

Both legislation and compliance related to sustainable packaging have risen exponentially in recent years. That means that beyond creating an appealing package for consumers, companies now must consider environmental impacts, as well.

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to the U.K. Plastic Packaging Tax and individual state guidelines, regulations bring challenges when it comes to the ability to quickly adapt. Many companies don’t know where to start. However, with a few best practices in place, firms can begin minimizing their environmental impact and start aligning with sustainable business practices.

Managing Packaging Data

Maintaining DNA-level data related to a company’s products and packaging is essential when it comes to complying with sustainable packaging legislation. Because the various legislation can be so complex, companies are going to need to provide different data points and specifications based on the requirements as the industry progresses.

But there is no one-size-fits-all outline for packaging legislation, which means access to up-to-date specifications is critical. This is why companies should evaluate their understanding of and access to current data around packaging materials, processes, and design. In doing so, teams should begin to identify areas where improvements can be made to align with sustainability goals and comply with legislation.

Without concrete data, companies cannot benchmark where they stand today, let alone make progress on where they need to go as it relates to sustainable packaging. They are likely to fall short of adequately meeting legislative standards, which can result in fines, recalls, and other serious consequences.

Without concrete data, companies cannot benchmark where they stand today, let alone make progress on where they need to go as it relates to sustainable packaging.

Reporting and Compliance

As sustainable packaging legislation increases, companies will be asked to track and report their progress over time—and these reports have grown more complex.

In Specright’s “2022 State of Sustainability Report,” 92% of respondents stated that their companies had specific sustainability goals—and this percentage has likely increased since 2022. In today’s current environment, reporting on sustainability data provides accountability to stakeholders regarding green goals. Measuring and reporting on key performance indicators related to packaging sustainability will bolster support for companies’ claims.

Industry and Country Standards

Understanding the nitty gritty of every sustainable packaging legislation is impossible, so companies may be best served by familiarizing themselves with the legislation that applies to their specific geographic location and industry. For example, target and gather the stats that apply whether it is around eliminating waste and banning certain materials or increasing reuse and biodegradable materials.

Choose dedicated team members to oversee and monitor sustainable packaging legislation because details can change often. Staying up to date with legislation is critical to understanding what changes may impact company operations.

Spec-First Approach

Companies taking a spec-first approach to data management may find compliance checks and audits much more manageable. By centralizing and digitizing specification data, your teams can become more agile to address the continuous changes in sustainable packaging legislation.

Plus, having up-to-date specifications enables companies to be transparent and accountable to all stakeholders—building trust and corporate commitment to sustainable packaging management.

Beyond improving stakeholder relations, companies who are taking a spec-first approach will be enabled to manage and mitigate risks associated with noncompliance upfront. This can save your company from hefty fines, help avoid any negative media attention, and even help secure brand loyalty among consumers.

In a world driven by conscious consumers and environmental legislation, companies that prioritize the management of accurate and current data may be better equipped to navigate the complex landscape of sustain- able packaging—a manageable yet essential change in business operations.

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Matthew Wright is founder and CEO of Specright, a firm that offers a cloud-based packaging specification system.