While there has been significant progress made during the past year toward a greater overall understanding of sustainability, corporate social responsibility and sustainable packaging, Jason Pearson, the president and CEO of Greenblue recently made a keen observation.

“It disturbs me,” said Jason, “that I don’t hear the words sustainable packaging and quality mentioned in the same sentence.”

Are we, in our haste to make progress toward sustainability in any form, losing sight of the fact that we still have a responsibility to produce the highest quality packaging that protects a product and delivers it safely to consumers?

Without quality, we cannot create profit for shareholders nor improve the lives of those with whom our businesses and products come in contact.

I will second Jason’s concern about the back seat quality seems to have taken in the greater context of sustainability-and add that excellence, innovation, service, safety and trust in packaging will be with us long after sustainability, carbon footprinting or the next generation of responsibility has become business as usual, rather than an unusual way to do business.

We must pursue quality and sustainability on equal terms by committing equal or greater resources. And for those efforts, we must demand ever-greater social, environmental and economic returns.

We’ve made tremendous progress toward embedding the tenets of sustainability into our businesses. We now need to work on reinforcing the idea among consumers that packaging adds value to their quality of life, not waste.

We’re all on a steep learning curve as we search for our own business and technology sustainability sweet spot-the point where financial interests coincide with social and environmental interests (which Packaging Strategies has coined as “eco”nomics).

As an industry, we should not and cannot be energized by cliché one-liners or catch phrases. But at the same time, let’s embrace the change and capitalize on the advantages these opportunities present-so long as we do it accurately and with science to back it up.

What progress have we made toward being able to recognize greenwashing-and have we made progress toward being confident enough in our own knowledge and understanding to challenge what we believe to be false or misleading marketing statements when we read them?

In the wake of so many claims, the packaging community must have access to more information that is transparent in both its root cause and its downstream impact-information that affords clear and total understanding that enables responsible individuals and teams to develop and lead sustainability and sustainable packaging initiatives, projects and programs.

We must continue to engage each other in new and meaningful exchanges of information, ideas and best practices.