Sustainability in packaging slows down, but remains important; market players concerned about EPR mandates being inconsistent, not so much about affect of economic pressures, according to latest Packaging Digest survey

LOS ANGELES , November 1, 2011 () – Packaging sustainability efforts are continuing in the packaging sector, although a little slower, according to a September 2011 update of a yearly packaging industry survey by Packaging Digest, the publication reported on Nov. 1.

In the 2011 Sustainability in Packaging study, 80% of those polled in the industry reported high or moderate familiarity with sustainability issues, compared with 83% in the 2010 survey. When the survey began in 2007, this figure was 52%.

The main influences on companies’ sustainability efforts were consumer demand (48%), pricing pressure (47%) and retailer or brand owner needs (35%), according to the respondents, Packaging Digest reported.

The effect of the economy on sustainability efforts varied among those polled, with 19% saying that customers are unwilling to pay higher prices for sustainable packaging, while 18% said the economy had little if any effect, and 16% indicated that conditions only slowed or postponed sustainability goals.

Yet economic conditions were given as the main reason some companies have cut back on their sustainable packaging programs. While sustainability can have long-term benefits, corporations are evaluated on their short-term returns, said one respondent, reported Packaging Digest.

Throughout the survey, respondents were concerned about regulations being inconsistent. Nearly 70% consider the issue of extended producer responsibility (EPR) “somewhat” or “very significant.” However, this is down from 89% in the 2010 study.

A majority of those polled support federal regulations on EPR rather than various different mandates being enacted by the states. Only 11% are in favor of no government interference at all.

Packagers say that without consistent rules, they will either have to meet different standards or aim to meet the strictest standard with their packaging, Packaging Digest reported.

Among the retailers mentioned for their sustainability practices were Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which maintained its leading position again in 2011, according to the study. Target Corp. and Whole Foods Market Inc. were in second and third places, respectively.

Most recognized for its sustainability among consumer packaged goods companies was Procter & Gamble Co., followed by Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc.

Mentions were made for International Paper Co., DuPont Co. and NatureWorks LLC, for packaging materials suppliers, but none had more than 10% of the votes. Only Bosch Group was noted among machinery suppliers and only by 4% of those polled, reported Packaging Digest.

The primary source of this article is Packaging Digest, Oak Book, Illinois, on Nov. 1, 2011.

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