Consumer appetite for sustainable packaging grows despite turbulent year

Consumer appetite for sustainable packaging grows despite turbulent year

- Two thirds of consumers want to be more sustainable

- Half want less packaging in their delivery 

- Greenwashing remains a concern; validation of claims is critical

A new report by fashion retail authority Drapers, in partnership with Smurfit Kappa, has revealed that sustainable packaging is still an important factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions. The research, which was done against the backdrop of supply chain issues, rising inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine, revealed that two-thirds of respondents stated they want to be more sustainable and more than a third have purchased a product based on the sustainability of its packaging. 

Sustainable packaging matters – recyclability and recycled materials

In the Drapers’ Sustainability and the Consumer 2022 report fashion consumers show a growing appetite for both sustainable products and packaging, revealing that concern about climate change is influencing purchasing decisions despite volatility on the world stage.

The recyclability of packaging is an important factor for consumers when assessing the environmental impact of fashion.  65% of respondents stated that knowing that the packaging is recycled is important, while 42% said that the use of recycled content is important. A further 49% indicated that using a small amount of packaging is important to them, stating that the overuse of packaging has become a ‘bugbear of many’, particularly when it comes to online shopping.

However, despite the consumer desire for sustainable packaging, consumer appetite to pay for it remains less clear. The report found that just over half (51%) believe sustainable packaging should not come at a cost to themselves. The report found that the younger cohort (18 – 24 years old) are happier to pay for sustainable packaging (64%), whilst an older age cohort (55 – 60 years old) are not willing to pay the extra price associated with sustainable packaging (65%) and believe those costs should be absorbed by the retailer.

Commenting on the importance for retailers to introduce sustainable packaging, Eddie Fellows, CEO of Smurfit Kappa UK and Ireland, said: “This year’s Drapers’ report once again highlights the importance of sustainable packaging for both the retailer and the end consumer. Packaging is a visible and tangible signal of a brand’s commitment to sustainability. By switching from an unsustainable packaging material to a sustainable packaging material, like for example paper, you are demonstrating an active commitment to become more sustainable. 

“At Smurfit Kappa, we act as a strategic partner to all our clients helping them to optimise their supply chain and this often means designing fit-for-purpose sustainable packaging solutions. While some retailers are put off by potentially higher costs associated with sustainable packaging, the lasting benefits are likely to make the investment worth it.”

Don’t just claim it, prove it - greenwashing a concern

The report also highlighted consumers’ desire for businesses to validate sustainability claims. While 62% of respondents said they generally accept the sustainability claims that are made by companies, 21% of consumers do not believe those claims and only 17% always accept them, down 2% on last year’s data.  This growing consumer scepticism has also resulted in a reduced level of trust in brands, with 71% of consumers saying that they do not always trust brands that claim to be sustainable. The research clearly shows that anything retailers can do to substantiate and clarify their sustainability claims is likely to improve consumer confidence and understanding.

Commenting on the findings from the report, Garrett Quinn, Chief Sustainability Officer at Smurfit Kappa, said “Consumers care more and more about what a brand is ‘doing’, rather than what a brand is ‘saying they are doing’. This can be done through a multitude of ways, however one of the most pertinent ways is through certification and third-party validation. The work we have been doing in the sustainability space has been recognised by leading third parties such as the Science Based Targets initiative, MSCI and Sustainalytics.

“Third party assurance, together with third party certification of our sustainability credentials, helps us as a business and shows our customers the work we are doing in the sustainability space is not going unnoticed.”

61% of respondents stated they are more likely to buy something if it has a certification or stamp of approval from a recognised sustainability authority, with this figure rising to 70% for those aged 35 to 44.

Sustainability is here to stay

The report clearly highlights one fundamental point – sustainability is here to stay. Nearly four-fifths (77%) of respondents now seriously consider sustainability when buying fashion, a slight increase from 2021’s figure of 75%.

Despite this increase, consumers continue to balance other priorities – such as price and quality – when considering purchasing ethically.

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