Not long ago, advertising products on their eco-friendliness only connected with a small, dedicated set of buyers. A wider awareness of human impact on our fragile ecological state changed all that. Over the course of the past decade or so, the increased buying power of eco-conscious consumers, particularly amongst millennials between 18 and 34 years of age, augmented the sales landscape, inspiring everyone from local main-street businesses to multinational monolith corporations to emphasize sustainability in their marketing. Research from a variety of sources suggests there are benefits to switching to sustainable packaging for businesses of all sizes, including everything from increased yearly sales to courting a youthful consumer base who cares more about what a product says about them than how much less it costs.
Forbes contributor Jeff Fromm writes “Millennials have stronger connections with brands that promote sustainability in addition to corporate responsibility. The combination of these two values encourages companies to implement viable business practices throughout the entire ecosystem. That includes suppliers, consumers, employees, and more.” Pointedly, he goes on to say that “an example of this is packaging that allows consumers to not only open and use what they need. Providing a quality seal for what they don’t use allows millennials to avoid being wasteful, an important value to this environmentally friendly demographic.”
A wealth of data illustrates the specific appeal of sustainable packaging for customers, including research that tracks the positive effect on sales advertising as an eco- or socially-conscious business. Buyers are deeply interested in minimizing the waste involved in buying consumable goods such as drinks, produce, and other products. A recent study in the International Journal of Consumer Studies where 330 consumers were given a range of drink choices found that “the largest consumer segment, one-third of consumers, favoured environmentally labelled packaging as the most important criteria in their choice.” Furthermore, the results of this study led researchers to assert a belief in the “increasing importance of ethical and environmental dimension in product choices.”
Outside the lab, studies have shown that companies who market their dedication to ecological and social positive business practices get a boost at the cash register as well. Using retail sales data from a cross-section of consumable and non-consumable goods across 20 brands in nine countries, global consumer research leader Nielsen found that products with sustainability claims on the packaging showed an average annual sales increase of 2 percent, compared to a 1 percent increase for 14 other brands without sustainability claims. Products whose environmental efforts were simultaneously promoted through marketing promotions saw an annual sales increase of 5 percent for the duration of the study. Adding this type of increase to your bottom line is no small potatoes, and should quickly overtake the additional costs associated with redesigning your packaging.
In short, consumers are interested in buying products that are labeled and marketed as earth-friendly. But will they really pay more at the register for sustainability? Research says that most global consumers, especially millennial buyers, are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Huffington Post notes that this is an increase of 26 percent over the course of six years, marking a trend that is gaining steam. Considering Generation Y is now the largest generation in the labor force according to the Pew Research Center, this is quite a monumental finding for business owners looking to get an edge over competitors.
And these trends aren’t going unnoticed by big players in the global economy. Companies like Coca Cola, Unilever, Damone are “making sustainability central to their brand’s core values.” Thirteen of the largest companies in the US backed President Obama’s initiative to tackle U.S. carbon emissions—a gesture that proves how the environmental inclinations of consumers can be a powerful tool when it comes to boosting the bottom line.
For small companies with tight margins, changing business practices or packaging can seem like an unnecessary or unattainable cost. No matter the size of your business, there are things big and small that you can do to minimize your environmental impact (and emphasize your sustainability):
- Radically rethink packaging. While packaging is certainly important for marketing your product, nearly all of it goes in the garbage once you’ve made the sale. Consider ways to use less material when packaging, especially when it comes to shipping. If you need help getting started, there are a range of online resources available for businesses seeking ideas for a more sustainable product packaging.
- Growing businesses need to expand. When you’re looking for a new office building, take the environmental impact of your workspace into consideration. LD Products in Long Beach found a home in a LEED Certified building that employs solar power, energy star windows, and other green technologies to help obtain a smaller carbon footprint (while saving on the bottom line).
- Over time, small gestures like minimizing unnecessary paper waste and using remanufactured ink and toner in your office can dramatically cut down on the amount of refuse you produce during the day-to-day course of business. As part of a company-wide initiative to minimize wasteful practices, these little things are steps along the path to award-winning sustainability.
World consumers are looking for local and sustainable products more than ever. Beyond simply tapping into catchwords or trends, sustainable practices in packaging offer businesses a way to tap into the values of buyers. Lowering your impact on the environment goes beyond making a difference in your everyday business practices . . . it can lead a whole new market of engaged buyers to your doorstep.
About the Author
Nicholas Brown lives in Southern California and he writes for InkCartridges.com. He loves writing about sustainable technologies and design as well as eco-friendly business and marketing practices.