Study: Sustainability Makes a Difference - Even in Packaging
3/31/2023 New Creations Retail Insights Article

Study: Sustainability Makes a Difference - Even in Packaging

Sustainability as a purchase criterion has probably finally arrived in the minds of customers. At least, this is what the current Digital Commerce Study 2023 by the IT service provider Adesso suggests. Retailers and manufacturers can draw competitive advantages from this. The packaging industry, however, is facing a balancing act. Their solutions not only have to be ecological and economical, but also meet new legal requirements.

Sustainability is also a Trend in E-Commerce. Sustainability is also a Trend in E-Commerce

Price continues to be the all-dominant criterion in purchasing decisions. This is also reflected in the results of the current Adesso study. Of a total of 1,000 consumers surveyed, 71 percent are "more likely to buy a product if the price is right". Far behind follow aspects such as ecological materials (31 percent), a low ecological footprint (17 percent) or fair working conditions (15 percent).

Nevertheless, something is changing here right now. For the young target group, price is becoming less important (56 percent), while interest in sustainability is rising massively, for example in fair working conditions to 44 percent. And a full 70 percent of respondents agree with the statement that transparent and sustainable companies are more likeable and credible. Reason enough for brands and the packaging industry to take the issue on board.

Because at the same time, only a quarter of consumers think that sustainable companies are "standard." Almost two-thirds even say that they are "hard to find." This gives suppliers room to stand out from the competition through active product design and communication.

Whereby sustainability does not exist for free, as the Adesso study also shows. It causes effort and costs. No wonder that of 500 companies surveyed, only 38 percent address the topic "out of conviction". The reason is rather that "the customers expect it" and one feels "socially obligated to it".

But what does this mean for packaging as an important element of sustainable e-commerce? For Sonja Bähr, packaging analyst at Berlin-based TILISCO GmbH, the survey of online customers shows above all their low willingness to pay. Free shipping and free returns are still "strong incentives to buy," says Bähr. But "someone has to pay for packaging and logistics in the end."

In her view, the industry is facing groundbreaking decisions - driven not least by the planned EU packaging regulation. In her view, reusable packaging quotas could lead to economic and ecological disadvantages. In use, for example, for baked goods or vegetables, these work perfectly well. "But if in the future my desk chair is delivered in a reusable plastic box, I don't see any advantage." Additional plastic production, return of the deposit packaging - rather, new ecological problems and costs would arise.

We are well positioned here with corrugated board," says Bähr, but she believes that the potential for completely new materials and "real innovations" in the packaging industry is limited. Therefore, in the "new dynamics that the circular economy is currently taking up," it is primarily a matter of improving recycling. To this end, packaging strategies are needed to "recover" as many recyclable materials as possible - whether from waste containers or sorting plants. Consumers also need to be more involved in this.

Bähr sees one advantage of the EU regulation in harmonization, such as uniform labeling requirements, which ultimately also simplify recycling.

The Adesso study also warns that one thing should not be forgotten in all sustainability efforts: communication. According to the survey, only 15 percent of companies plan to improve their sustainability communication. And this is despite the fact that this is exactly what customers want. The study sees a need to catch up here - true to the motto "Do good - and talk about it".