The past few months have seen increasing numbers of companies in the beauty and healthcare industries making sustainable pledges in order to help protect the environment. What is the reason behind this trend? Industry experts and packaging manufacturers explain why sustainability is at the core of their products’ identity and what future lies ahead for companies that decide to switch to environment-friendly packaging.

Nick Stragnell, Head of eCommerce, Ellisons:

As a beauty and cosmetics wholesaler, we know first-hand the volume of packaging required day-to-day and it is certainly a challenge, particularly when dealing with delicate items or products that need to adhere to strict hygiene standards.

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Consumers are more concerned than ever about recycling and plastic waste; the on-going plastic debate means that suppliers have to be more conscious of their choices, and move towards a more sustainable option in order to meet their customers’ needs. After the successful ban on microbeads in many cosmetic products, recent research shows that consumers are embracing the idea of refillable and non-toxic packaging.

Chandler Sterling, CEO, California Beard Company:

There is a growing awareness among senior managers and executives that we, as a brand, have a social responsibility. Our products play a role in the growing size of landfills around the world. Shifting to sustainable business practices will positively affect our bottom line as well, as being a company that values sustainability pays dividends in good PR.

Nikki Hynek, chief creative, Dollup Beauty:

Depoting makeup out of the plastic compacts to streamline our pro kits is a trick that’s been used by makeup artists for years. I remember working at the Clinique counter almost 20  years ago and clients would ask why they had to buy a completely new compact every time they purchased powder—it seemed wasteful.

Since big companies are offering makeup tin options without plastic compacts, we’re able to supply consumers with a beautiful compact to store all their makeup in.  We’re giving women a permanent package option

Danielle Vincent, co-founder, Outlaw Soaps:

First, it’s one of my lifelong missions to address the plastic waste in the ocean. I didn’t want to contribute to that on any level. But second, I don’t think it’s possible to launch new products without sustainable packaging. I just don’t think the customers will put up with anything less than sustainable at this point. Entering the market without sustainability built in is a short-sighted approach.

Our customers are conscientious about their impact on other people and the planet. When we started the business, we knew exactly what kind of customers we wanted to attract and build long relationships with, and these customers will not tolerate large waste. They take for granted that companies like ours are run with a sustainability mindset, just because we all share a commitment to the outdoors.

Serena Rogers, founder, Cūrata Sustainable Luxury:

From our perspective, in order to develop a brand in the beauty space that is truly safe and sustainable, you cannot stop at the product formulas. In order to be authentic and honest with our mission of sustainable luxury, we extended these values through to our packaging platform and business practices. We wanted to ensure that Curata was eco-friendly from A to Z. With all the greenwashing going on, so many brands make clean or sustainable product claims but have mainly plastic-based packaging. We did not want this.

There are three main reasons behind the decision to go sustainable:

–Firstly, the plastics debate. The amount of plastics building up in our environment – and oceans specifically – is a personal cause. We donate 1% to the Plastic Oceans charity. Each industry needs to dramatically reduce the amount and kinds of plastics used and/or find eco-alternatives.

Then there’s transparency. I personally feel that if you want to label a brand truly safe and sustainable, you cannot stop at the product formulas and must ensure you’ve addressed all angles and aspects of the business.

–Lastly, consumer demand. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the green-washing going on in beauty formulations. It won’t be long before they also begin to demand that packaging keep up.

Chiara Covone, director of innovation, DS Smith:

Packaging sustainability has rightly started to receive increased attention, which has encouraged leading brands across all sectors to review their use of plastic packaging and consider alternative, recyclable materials. Companies are also aware that with sustainability and recycling increasingly on the legislative agenda globally, it’s only a matter of time before non-sustainable practices are met with penalties – so brands are being more proactive now.

The industry has also seen a rise in brands with an organic and natural ethos, and for good reason. Recent research that found 81% of millennials expect their favourite companies to make public declarations of their corporate citizenship – simply put, people, millennials most of all,  want the companies they buy from to practice sustainable and ethically-minded business.

This has allowed packaging to become a key method of differentiation and a creative way to build and maintain trust between a brand and its customers. So, for these companies, it’s important to use a packaging solution that reflects their values and with 66% of consumers willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable source – it’s a trend we can expect to continue.

Andy Pretious, UK sales and marketing manager, Automated Packaging Systems:

With growing concern over the problem of plastic pollution, industries, including beauty and healthcare, are now focusing on re-use and recycling by exploring sustainable packaging options.

Plastic still has a key part to play in sustainable packaging as it enables businesses to offer complete product protection and, with consumers purchasing more online and expecting their items to arrive in perfect condition, ultimately businesses need to balance the performance and sustainability qualities when choosing packaging.

Nearly all types of plastics can be recycled but it is important that businesses communicate disposal methods and educate consumers to ensure packaging is discarded responsibly.

There’s a greater number of environmentally-friendly options available, but it is clear that we must be careful when making decisions about plastic packaging as it’s difficult to fully understand the wider repercussions on waste.

It is important that businesses make educated decisions about the products and packaging they buy and the message they communicate to their customers on re-use and recycling.

Mark Hilton, Head of Sustainable Business, Eunomia Research & Consulting:

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series released in December 2017 and other high-profile marine plastic campaigns like Sky Ocean Rescue have increased consumer awareness of the problems associated with marine litter, specifically plastics in the marine environment. This has led to a great deal of consumer pressure on all sectors to prioritise environmentally friendly packaging around products.

As well as the newly-announced Plastics Pact in the UK, a voluntary approach, it is also likely that there will be new regulatory drivers, with more stringent restrictions on single-use plastics and higher recycling targets coming in via the European Commission’s circular economy package, and via revised Packaging Waste Regulations in the UK—the so-called PRN system–making businesses more directly responsible for the recyclability of packaging in the future.