How do we move packaging sustainability dialogue forwards – and in the right direction?

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How do we move packaging sustainability dialogue forwards – and in the right direction?

As sustainability remains a hot topic, consumers are looking to brands to demonstrate that their efforts are more than surface level. In a challenging commercial environment that demands progress and innovation at every turn, how brands and their packaging supply chains turn sustainability intent into action is crucial.

When we look back at the storied history of packaging, sustainability is one of the landmark changes that has shifted not only how packaging is designed, developed and produced – but how it interacts with consumer needs and the world around us. What started as a ripple of change has become a tidal wave, and the drive for packaging to be ‘greener’ is now front and center for brands, printers and consumers alike.

The statistics certainly back this up.  A recent study by McKinsey & Company found that 60 to 70 percent of consumers in the United States would be willing to pay more for sustainable packaging.  Fifty-two percent of consumers said they would buy more sustainably packaged products if they did not cost more. The study also found that ‘consumers are more or less equally interested in recyclable and recycled plastic packaging and in fiber-based packaging’.  Furthermore, that ‘consumers want plastic film and rigid packaging to be recyclable or to include higher levels of recycled content.’

What this data tells us is that when the consumer is faced with two comparable like-for-like products, but one is perceived to have more sustainable packaging, they are more likely to choose the greener option. Should the two products be pitched at a similar price point, the advantage becomes even more pronounced. As sustainability is now playing a key part in purchase decisions, it becomes core to long-term brand strategy and commercial success.

However, as every brand knows, it’s no longer as simple as choosing more sustainable substrates and making vague claims about business policies and operations. Consumers are getting under the skin of ‘sustainability’ and even the term itself has lost its commercial punch. Today’s more active and engaged audience wants to know that packaging has been sustainably designed, manufactured and supplied from the outset.

Sustainability through the lens of an ink maker

At Flint Group Packaging Inks, our customers rely on our expertise to deliver more environmentally oriented solutions, without compromising on the performance and quality that’s so essential to ensuring packaging retains its functionality along with brand integrity. We understand that talking a good game of sustainability is nothing if we can’t back it up with action and strategy that creates a better world.

For our team, that means developing a portfolio of products that is ethically managed, reduces overall ecological impact, is designed and built responsibly, and supports the need for circularity, as the closed loop economy becomes the norm, not the exception.

Our activities are shaped and guided by the spirit of the United Nations Global Compact initiative, which offers ten key principles for responsible business. When we say that Flint Group Packaging Inks is an organization with sustainability at its heart, we’re not just paying lip service. Our true, measurable commitment to sustainable printing and packaging gives our customers the confidence that their supply chains are shored up with inks, coatings and services that minimize waste in all ways possible.

Helping to ‘close the loop’

A fantastic example of how Flint Group ‘walks the walk’ in sustainability is the development of our ZenCode CG and CS collection of inks and coatings designed for flexible packaging and shrink sleeves. The solvent-based inks are designed to support a stronger and robust circular economy in packaging and have Material Health Certification with the Cradle to Cradle™ Products Innovation Institute. This initiative, designed to bring about large-scale transformation in how products are manufactured, essentially rates products and components based on how sustainable they are – both in production and at the end of their lifespan – based on chemical hazard identification and qualitative exposure considerations.

Another example is the development and accreditation of our ZenCode inks for sinking cystallizable PET labels, and floatable PE and PP labels, by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR).Flint Group

For brands looking to create more holistic packaging sustainability, the adoption of inks such as ZenCode represents a valuable opportunity to lower the environmental footprint of packaging from the inception of a package design through to the finished product. It’s all about showing the consumer the actionable changes being taken to make packaging truly eco-friendly. It’s all about turning intent into action.

Shaping future sustainability conversation

Concerns related to plastic packaging remain front and center for many brands and consumers. Many people still associate flexible plastics with littering, growing mounds of waste, and harm to sea life.  The industry needs to work together to exhibit the benefits of flexible plastic packaging; promoting the important role this package type plays in protecting food and other essential goods that help to maintain the health and well-being of consumers everywhere. In parallel – finding ways to produce materials which do not disrupt recycling processes.

One of the most fundamental ways we move the sustainability dialogue forward is by pooling knowledge and insight. Huge industry-wide strides are being made in areas such as substrate development, but Flint Group can offer its own perspective as an expert in the development of inks and coatings. Industry change has to be a team effort, which means every single part of the supply chain has a part to play. At Flint Group, we work with a range of organizations focused on building a circular economy such as CEFLEX, CADEL Deinking, The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and AIM’s HolyGrail 2.0 initiative to ensure we are actively contributing to moving the dial for the industry.

We are also producing whitepapers, which draw knowledge from the vast and diverse experience of the business and format it into a digestible guide for printers and brand owners. For example, we released our whitepaper ‘Sustainability Strategy in Focus’, which challenges printers to think more holistically and view sustainability – and indeed the concept of a circular economy – as a way forward for the packaging sector, not as an ‘end goal’ in and of itself.

As a business, we are fully committed to the well-being of the environment and the growth of packaging markets and are working hard to support our customers to meet their sustainability objectives too.

For more information on the Flint Group range of inks and coatings, and to download the recent whitepaper, please visit or email

Nicki Kerrigan is Vice President Flexible Packaging North America at Flint Group Packaging Inks.