Sustainable Packaging: Will the Momentum Continue Post Coronavirus?
The full effects of the coronavirus on the global economy have yet to be seen. The crisis has prompted a fairly immediate shutdown of the world economy.
In our small corner of the economy, the packaging industry, the 12-18 months prior to the coronavirus marked a welcome shift in packaging trends.
Sustainable packaging solutions were gaining traction – FAST! Plastic had become a dirty word and companies looking to reduce or eliminate its use in packaging applications.
The fuel for this trend can be attributed to:
- The power of popular opinion.
- The massive power a few large companies have over the entire industry.
The combination of social media and the simplicity of its access via the cell phone have heightened the pressure on companies to show environmental ethics. Consumers of their products care more about the environment, share more online and it’s a snowball of environmental demand heading downhill. Companies have no choice but to respond. Not that companies did not have environmental directives of their own. However, it is hard to deny the social pressure and that has accelerated the trend.
Big, Powerful Companies
The best analogy could be astrological (a personal interest of mine). I view these large powerful companies like black holes. You might view this as a negative comment, but I intend it as a positive. Black holes are so massive and have such a high degree of gravity associated with them they warp space-time. Their gravitational pull is so strong that star systems rotate around them. Black holes command the universe. Similarly, the largest companies in the world set trends and the market follows. Here is are two examples from the packaging industry.
In 2008, Amazon started to use reinforced water-activated tape for closing eCommerce delivery boxes. Today, the reinforced water-activated tape is a standard closure method for the entire eCommerce industry.
In 2018, Dunkin Donuts announced that by 2020, they will no longer use polystyrene styrofoam cups. Time will tell, but my bets are they you will not see many Styrofoam cups in a few years.
These big, powerful companies have the power to say “this is the right way” and the market will follow. When it comes to the desire for sustainable packaging, these big, powerful companies are under pressure to do the “right thing” and that thing is to increase sustainability.
So, we have now established the motivation (public opinion supercharged by social media via cell phones) and the method of change (big, powerful companies and their space-time bending gravity to shift market trends). On top of this, the mission is GOOD. We need to save the planet – the world is ready to take responsibility and make changes. So much momentum, positivity – sustainable packaging could save the world (OK that is going a bit far, but you get the point).
Then we watched and continue to watch a slow-motion train wreck also known as the coronavirus. The global economy has gone from thriving to survive in a matter of weeks. So, my question, what is going to happen to all the positive momentum on sustainable packaging? Will companies previously committed to green packaging products divert their priorities to the “other” green ($$$)?
I say NO, this sustainable packaging movement is here to stay. Here’s why?
- Coronavirus is not a computer virus; it does not impact cell phones. The method for how public opinion is shaped has not changed. If anything, social distancing has made people more reliant on their cell phones, imagine that.
- The Coronavirus has shown in dynamic ways how damaging people have been to the environment. The economic stop has displayed dramatic images across the Earth with the reduction of greenhouses gas emissions from far fewer cars, buses, trains, airplanes and ocean liners traveling around the world. Residents of Northern Indian towns are reporting to see the Himalayan Mountain range for the first time in 30 years as a result of improving air quality. Along with other images from China, Europe and North America of air quality improvements that are noticeable from space (in only 60 days) – it reinforces the mission; that we have the power to reverse our impacts on Earth.
- More Effort to Reverse Progress than to Keep Going – Big, Powerful companies are going to thin resources and conserve capital. With the likely reduction in the workforce, it would be more difficult to reverse the progress of sustainable packaging initiatives already in motion. Let’s look at our Dunkin Donuts example, are they likely to reverse the course of Styrofoam cups? I doubt it. Of course, it would be a PR nightmare for them, but to our point here, it would take a lot of time and effort to reverse supply chain decisions. They don’t have time for it.
- Technology and Innovation have made the cost difference less. There was a time that environmentally friendly products were more expensive, much more in fact. Depending on the product, there are sustainable packaging solutions that do not cost significantly more. The economic downside of sustainable packaging is not overwhelming for most companies.
While the coronavirus pandemic will end, our opinion is that the growth of sustainable packaging will continue. The pace of adoption will likely slow as the whole economy slows; however, the momentum is too great for interest in sustainable packaging to disappear.
At Holland Manufacturing, the last several weeks have been very difficult and we foresee challenging times ahead. However, we are committed to doing our part to decrease our environmental footprint and develop sustainable packaging materials beyond the current options that we do offer. Moving forward, please look for more updates and information from Holland on sustainable packaging. We are going to develop a special section of our website devoted to sustainability and look forward to working with our customers to meet their sustainable packaging needs.
Also Read Here: Bogus Paper: Sustainable Packaging by Holland Manufacturing
About Holland Manufacturing Company : Holland Manufacturing Company Also Offers Packaging Products like Water Activated Tape, Blue Shield Industrial Products, Specialty Coated and Laminated Products, Custom Printed Labels ; Tags, Industrial Paper Products etc.
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