Print and packaging are leading the charge for customer centric sustainability

For almost a decade, major global corporations have been shifting their business models, re-evaluating their strategies and asking more questions about where they source their materials. COVID-19 has revved this conversation up and the printing industry has once again stepped up to drive sustainable customer centric solutions.

“2020 could not be a better time to adopt this thinking. Print has always been fundamentally based around sustainability and the principles of a circular economy” says Lachlan Finch, Director, Rawson Print Company (RPCo.).

So, what is a circular economy and what does it look like? The premise rests on sustainability, an ethos that is likely to become more prevalent as we transition into what has been coined ‘The Great Economic Reset’ – thanks to the challenges of COVID-19.

Traditional perspectives that the printing industry is environmentally unsustainable are far from the truth. In fact, at its essence, printing is circular: trees are planted and harvested for paper, processed into an end product, distributed, recycled, biodegraded back into the ground – with replacement trees planted in an ongoing, cyclical process.

Adds Finch: “Clients want to feel empowered by the impact of their purchasing decisions, that’s why it’s more important than ever for print and packaging manufactures to not only provide environmentally sustainable solutions, which they have done for decades, but to also communicate these environmental credentials through the use of visual icons such as recycled and FSC logos and labelling. It is incumbent on us to demonstrate our effectiveness in the circular economy so consumers can be vindicated in their choices.”

According to Two Sides (a not-for-profit global initiative promoting the unique sustainable attributes of print and paper), well-managed forests planted for the printing industry actually reduce the pressure placed on natural forests and can provide many other environmental benefits.

This year, the not-for-profit completed a European survey of 5,900 consumers, commissioned by research company Toluna. The report shared key findings that identify paper and cardboard ranking highest with consumers for sustainability attributes, including home compostable (72pc), better for the environment (62pc) and easier to recycle (57pc).

In May 2020, The Conversation ran an article citing the European Commission’s vow to build a sustainable circular economy post-pandemic: ‘A sustainable circular economy involves designing and promoting products that last and that can be re-used, repaired and remanufactured’.

This sentiment is shared by the Australian print industry, increasingly driven by a focus on reducing their carbon footprint while delivering an attractive product. Similar to print,  packaging manufacturers are focused on their impact in the circular future. Examples of the drive for sustainable solutions are near boundless: from Coca-Cola’s transition from plastic wrapping to a fully recycleable paperboard topper for its multipacks, saving 3,000 tonnes of CO2 annually1, to the implementing of cellulose films for carton windowing and company such as Nestlé pleading to to make 100 percent of ALL its product’s packaging recyclable or reusable by 20252.

It’s heartening to see businesses proactively seeking out new ways of working. As businesses shift their thinking to align with broader social and environmental issues, the problems caused by our material world become glaringly obvious to consumers. As businesses question conventional practices, innovation will manifest through sustainability and circular economy initiatives.

Knowledge of the day-to-day impacts of irresponsible manufacturing and consumption, and of the potential benefits offered by the circular economy movement, is gaining traction, and fast. As printers, we must play our part. RPCo. prioritises sustainability because we believe we should be accountable to our clients, our customers and to the environment. You can find out more about our sustainability practices here.

  1. Packaging Europe – Coca-Cola announces sustainable paperboard topper for multi-pack cans. See full article
  2. Reader’s Digest – 22 Big Companies That Are Getting Rid of Plastic for Good. See full article

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