PARCEL January/February 2024

Page 18


Uncovering opportunities to realign sustainability goals and action plans By Clint Smith, Sr.


he past few years have been historic for the direct-toconsumer (DTC) industry. Sales grew steadily until the pandemic unleashed tremendous growth and a need to convert omnichannel packaging and fulfillment operations to satisfy customer demand. Meanwhile, companies hastily developed and publicized ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals and committed to achieving them in 2025. Admittedly, many companies have slid sustainability goals to the back burner. However, the rapid growth in e-commerce has compelled consumers, industries, and governing bodies to shine a light on sustainable packaging to reduce the environmental impact of fulfillment and shipping. So, what defines “sustainability” and where is the industry at with its sustainability goals? To find out, Pregis surveyed 325 decision-makers and influencers across three primary industries, including industrial (manufacturing, automotive, and transportation), retail/e-commerce, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. Overall, the survey reveals that there is a “misalignment” between the companies’ definition of sustainability versus the initiatives and resources the companies are prioritizing and implementing. The bottom line: Businesses appear to be missing the connection between


damaged goods and landfill waste. Diverting packaging waste from landfills was one of the top ways companies defined sustainability. Yet, when asked what strategies are being executed, reducing package damage was low on the list of prioritized and implemented tactics by businesses. On top of this misalignment, key stakeholders appear to be missing from the sustainability decision-making process, which may be hindering businesses from executing an effective ESG program. Multi-Faceted Approach Focusing on Damage Reduction The survey indicates that 87% of companies feel it’s a priority to divert packaging waste away from landfills. However, when asked about the packaging and fulfillment practices implemented, only 40% of respondents have taken action toward reducing the number of packages that get damaged. This misalignment creates a distinct opportunity to educate stakeholders on the profound impact of damaged goods. Frequently, both consumers and a company will dispose of damaged shipments in a landfill — ultimately polluting the environment. If companies prioritize damage reduction, they could not only accelerate their sustainability goals but save themselves from the total cost of damages, which can have far-reaching impacts on profitability and customer lifetime value.

Various Stakeholders Are Key to Making Sustainable Packaging Decisions According to the Pregis survey, companies designated sustainability, finance, operations, and procurement as the primary departments to make sustainable packaging decisions. As the goals are becoming increasingly influenced by customers and consumers, it was surprising to see that packaging engineers (32%) and marketing (one percent) were the least involved. Packaging engineers optimize sustainability by selecting and validating the materials to meet the performance requirements for protection and shipping. At the same time, marketing communicates the voice of the customer and conveys the sustainability value proposition to the general public. Sustainable Packaging: The Intersection of Design, Performance, and Material Choice The Pregis study also showed that 99% of businesses want a trusted packaging supplier to provide package design and testing services, while 70% would like their supplier to perform an environmental impact analysis of packaging. Packaging suppliers with experienced design and engineering experts can help companies explore packaging alternatives to match their sustainability priorities while meeting performance demands and business goals. Starting with the right packaging decisions is good for the environment to reduce landfill waste and conserve resources. There are three primary ways to strategically approach packaging to ultimately have a positive impact on Mother Nature. Prevent: Preventing waste starts with the right packaging design for optimal protection. Packaging that under- or overprotects will likely result in damaged goods, which leads to packaging and landfill waste. Reduce: Minimizing the amount of material used while offering proper protection is impactful. Reducing volume can be achieved by rightsizing, down gauging, or lightweighting materials. These options save on material and shipping costs while helping meet sustainability commitments.

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.