More than three-quarters of packaging professionals (79%) admit they know only a little and/or need help with current and future regulations affecting the sector because of the sheer volume of requirements, according to a survey of senior industry leaders carried out at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) Impact 2024 conference in New Orleans, US.

The poll, now in its second year, was conducted by packaging sustainability consultancy Aura among experts from a range of global brands.

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It found that more than a quarter (27%) are currently unsure if their company is on track to meet its announced sustainability targets. 22% said as much at the first SPC conference in 2023.

Many brands are also falling behind on data, with three-quarters of packaging industry leaders (76%) admitting their organisation’s data journey has yet to reach the point where they are actively collecting the right data and using it effectively.

Meanwhile, almost half (41%) are still collecting data manually – for example, with simple spreadsheets rather than dedicated platforms.

The poll did find some encouraging signs of improvement, including a drop in the number of packaging professionals who think their business’s supply chain is either not as sustainable as it could be or not sustainable at all. This number dropped from 83% in 2023 to 61% in 2024.

More industry leaders are using channels other than the packaging itself – such as marketing campaigns – to inform the public about sustainability. The number using only their packaging for consumer education has fallen from 61% in 2023 to 41% in 2024.

Aura consulting director Gillian Garside-Wight commented: “New legislation on packaging is either in place or on the horizon in most territories, particularly Extended Producer Responsibility in the US, Europe and UK. It is unsurprising that a lot of packaging professionals are unsure what regulations now apply and what that means for their organisation’s sustainability targets.

“Although there are signs of improvement over the past year, the industry still has a long way to go to make supply chains more sustainable and educate the public in areas like recyclability and composting.”