New Consumer Attitudes Are Driving Innovation

Digitization unlocks the ability to create a more sustainable value chain, track the carbon footprint of products and identify areas of waste. Image courtesy of Avery Dennison.

Investing in Digitization, Reusable Packaging and Sustainable Materials Can Elevate Brands

By Caroline Hughes, Senior Global Product Line Manager, Packaging at Avery Dennison

Fashion, and more specifically fast fashion, is often labelled as one of the most polluting of industries. Recent events such as COP26 intensified the very real need for businesses to make a measurable change, and the fashion industry knows it must rapidly adopt new business models, or risk losing increasingly eco-conscious customers.

Sustainable initiatives have rightly become a core and non-negotiable focus for apparel brands. This has been propelled by the shift in consumers’ concerns and demands in recent years. More consumers are making an effort to shop greener and buy more eco-friendly products, demonstrating that sustainability is really driving and redefining consumers’ choices.

Western consumers now make decisions about which brands to buy according to how environmentally-friendly they are, and this includes their packaging—particularly regarding e-commerce delivery boxes, bags and void fill. In fact, a 2021 GlobalWebIndex (GWI) study revealed that 73% of US consumers and 82% of UK consumers who care about sustainability chose to shop with brands that have ‘greener’ packaging. As a result of rising concerns for sustainability, brands and companies are paying more attention to which forms of packaging will minimize their carbon footprint and reduce the impact on the environment.

Packaging made from paper and recycled plastics reduces single-use plastics, introduces reusable and recyclable materials, and limits the amount of packaging materials being used across the supply chain.

Innovations driving change

Clearly, reusable packaging is a very achievable way to reduce carbon emissions. Currently, the fashion and supply chain industries rely heavily on both plastic and paper packaging to transport products from the warehouse to consumers. Packaging includes polybags in factories, plastic packaging for online orders, plastic bags in stores and shops, to paper returns labels. Fully reusable solutions are still being researched and developed, and further innovation including applying smart technology and digitizing packaging is fast becoming the future.

With connected packaging, a unique digital ID makes it possible to increase transparency and traceability, providing data and information across the supply chain, including to consumers, who are becoming increasingly interested and engaged by brands’ ecological efforts.

For example, Avery Dennison supplies digital triggers in packaging such as QR codes and RFID tags, linked to our connected product cloud platform, atma.io. The technology allows brands and businesses to create a “digital twin” of their physical product. That digitization of product, and packaging, allows enterprises to unlock the ability to create a more sustainable value chain; track the carbon footprint of products and identify areas of waste. Ultimately, this can keep reusable products in circulation longer, enabling improved sortation and collection of both product and packaging.

Paper and recycled plastic

The fashion industry’s attitude towards sustainability is changing, and as a result, brands are sourcing more environmentally friendly packaging. Approximately 42% of consumers claim that recycled or sustainable materials are important when shopping according to GWI. Polybags made of recycled plastic are being used more commonly, as well as biodegradable plastic bags, and plastic-free garment bags made from durable and recyclable renewable resources, such as paper fiber.

Packaging made from paper and recycled plastics reduces single-use plastics, introduces reusable and recyclable materials, and limits the amount of packaging materials being used across the supply chain. These products enable brands to progress with their carbon reduction and sustainability initiatives, giving an alternative for the use of non-reusable plastics in the future.

Consumer interest in sustainability is growing fast, and recyclable and reusable packaging is now expected by most shoppers.

Packaging legislation on the horizon

Consumer interest in sustainability is growing fast, and recyclable and reusable packaging is now expected by most shoppers. This is evidenced by the number of brands making this committed change, and new laws being passed to ensure the industry and businesses alike are taking carbon reduction seriously. For example, new EU packaging regulations stipulate that from January 1, 2026, any producer who imports packaged products or puts products into packaging must take steps to ensure that at least 70% by weight of all packaging waste is recycled.

As we progress towards net-zero, digitization in the form of data and tracking needs to be incorporated into packaging. This will close the loop for true circularity, and provide the data needed for brands to prove they are reducing their carbon footprint.

About the Author

Caroline Hughes is a senior global product line manager of packaging at Avery Dennison. To support a more sustainable future, Avery Dennison has produced its eco-friendly Re-Think Packaging line, including a 100% recycled GRS-certified PE poly bag made from sustainable materials, and a plastic-free garment bag made from paper fiber. Learn more at www.averydennison.com.

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