Responsible packaging for a circular economy


CATEGORY: JAVIER ROMERO, editor of Infopack

In my first editorial after the holidays, and in line with a constant message that different consumer companies have been repeating in InfoPack's "Brand Values" podcasts, I wanted to speak about sustainability.

“Nothing new there”, you may rightly say. True, in part. Because, although sustainability is the axis on which 90% of innovation in packaging turns, it is no less true that all sustainable action must be profitable for the company that executes it. That's the constant I was referring to. Now, at what point does a sustainable action cease to be profitable?


“A sustainable perspective implies a transformation,” explained Mireia Vilalta, European Head of R&D Packaging at Danone, in our podcast, “and in any transformation we need investment in modifying lines, in new technology, in new materials being developed, in consumer behaviour studies, in recycling studies and in selecting plants, etc.” The message is clear: all these costs must be added to sustainability.


Margarita Muñoz, director of Social Responsibility and the Environment at Mercadona, expressed herself along similar lines, in this case referring to the most unfairly demonised material of the last five years, “I am not saying anything new if I suggest we have a problem with plastic waste management. However, it is also true that its benefits and what it contributes to the packaging of certain products, in their protection, not all materials can do. In fact, for some products, today we have no alternative.” We have no alternative. That is, could it be more sustainable? Yes, but neither the benefits of the new material nor its management at the end of its life cycle would be optimal. It ceases to be profitable for the consumer, for society and for the company.


In other words, we all know the importance of packaging in purchase decision-making and as an exceptional vehicle for brand positioning. What I want to do is bring up something that is already happening and that usually does not reach the general public: What happens when sustainability interferes with one of these keys? When making sustainable packaging involves using a material that may not be as visually appealing? Or doesn't offer the same functionality? This is when a brand can ask itself: is it profitable for me to be sustainable? Being in line with the circular economy can be more complex than it seems. Simultaneous sustainability with all the benefits provided by new technologies and new materials is today the workhorse of the R&D directors of large consumer companies. A commitment to sustainability should not mean the quality of your products, your brand positioning or your sales should suffer; rather the opposite.


A complex panorama, certainly. Sustainability is expensive. "But the cost of doing nothing is even higher," Vilalta told us. We couldn't agree more. And that, ultimately, is why we must be committed to responsible packaging for a circular economy.


Fco. Javier Romero

Editor Infopack Magazine

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