It is easy for brands to lose their way in this ever-changing landscape and feel overwhelmed by the possible packaging and messaging they could deploy for sustainable packaging.  Recyclable, recycled, compostable, biodegradable, energy saving, water conservation—the list can feel numbing. Going back to basics and reviewing your brand is a smart way to build a solid foundation and give a clear path for sustainable packaging decisions in an organization.

It sounds too simple right? That is exactly why it works. Starting a meeting with a desire to look at sustainable packaging first is like building a house without a blueprint. A better tactic is to go back to your core brand story and build from a solid foundation. Should battery packaging and snack food packaging have the same sustainable packaging goals? Maybe, but most likely not… So why start there?  Digging into the brand and product claims can help set a sensible strategy for determining direction for sustainable packaging.  

For example, consider where sustainability currently fits into your brand and by extension your packaging. Some brands have natural entryways into sustainable messaging due to their product.  Organics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and healthy snacks come to mind. Starting with your brand’s core message and building in sustainable packaging thinking in these cases can become a little easier.  Imagine a new protein drink aimed at young mothers on the go. Messages of health and wellbeing cover the packaging but the package itself is made out of a non-recyclable material. The packaging is actually hindering the primary brand message of health and wellness in this example. When you use the brand as the lens, marketing and packaging design is better positioned to consider alternate packaging that fits their core brand message. This is no longer a sustainability only conversation but a holistic brand conversation, which could impact the entire launch if not addressed. 

Leverage What You Already Know

Does your organization have public or private sustainability goals? If the answer is yes, this can be used as a guide post for your packaging design. For instance, if your brand is intensely water-focused in your consumer product or production process it should move to the top of the list for your sustainable packaging considerations. Looking at packaging and converters that align with your goals and have water conservation goals becomes a natural fit. This messaging can be subtly called out in the design phase or moved into a hero role if it is deemed important enough. This thinking gives the entire team a clear mission on what is and is not important for consideration.

As sustainability continues to grow as a consideration for brands and their packaging, it is important to review past decisions and determine if they still are valid. Brands can have great sustainability initiatives that fit their culture and are never applied to on packaging messaging. That is a business decision that is personal to each organization. Performing an annual review of new sustainability initiatives is one way to create a natural check in that will guide decisions and help brands choose where to spend their limited resources and energy. If done right it can make this process less intimidating and embed solid strategic thinking that aligns tightly with the brand.