Submitted by: Sam Upton January 18, 2021
“One in five consumers have stopped buying from some online retailers because the packaging they sent was not sustainable”
H&M is the latest retailer to replace its plastic packaging with paper, joining an increasing number of brands that are adapting their packaging materials to reduce the amount of waste plastic that ends up being thrown away rather than recycled.
The international fashion brand has introduced paper packaging to its e-commerce channels that serve millions of customers. Starting with the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, China, Russia and Australia, H&M, the paper packaging will be rolled out to more countries in the coming year, helping the brand to reach its ‘circular strategy for packaging’. This strategy includes reducing packaging by 25% and designing reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025.
“We are introducing a type of packaging that is better for both the customer and the environment,” says H&M Group’s Hanna Lumikero. “By introducing this new multi-brand packaging, we are creating a huge impact by replacing the outer plastic with a paper solution. This is a small step on a long journey.”
A Growing Trend
The announcement by H&M echoes similar moves by brands to phase out plastic packaging in favour of paper. Lego is investing £310m over the next three years to make its products and packaging more environmentally friendly, which includes replacing single-use plastic bags with recyclable, sustainably sourced paper bags, as well as expanding the use of plant-based bio-plastic in its pieces.
Meanwhile, FMCG giant Unilever has pledged to halve the amount of plastic it uses by 2025, introducing paper-based alternatives such as the paperboard packaging for its range of Carte D’Or ice creams. Made using ‘Cupforma Natura’, a renewable material developed by Stora Enso, the packaging can be either be recycled or composted, and is 23% lighter than the plastic version. Since 11m tubs of Carte D’Or are shipped annually, this represents a significant reduction of plastic – 520 tonnes a year to be exact.
“New packaging innovations are crucial for our target to make all our packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025,” says Giorgio Nicolai, Marketing Director of Ice Cream for Unilever in Italy, where the new tubs were launched last year.
When you include supermarkets replacing the packaging of their own-brand products and drinks companies such as Coca-Cola and Carlsberg trialling paper bottles instead of plastic or glass, it’s clear that the use of paper packaging is rising rapidly. And despite the global health crisis, consumers are increasingly demanding it.
The Business Case
In times of economic uncertainty, you would expect the most consumers to choose retail brands solely on the basis of cost. But a recent European survey by DS Smith found that 85% of consumers want to buy products that use as little packaging as possible, while almost a third (29%) have stopped buying particular brands altogether because the packaging was not sustainable.
Going further, around half of online shoppers (48%) have received ‘unsustainable’ ecommerce packing, and one in five (22%) have stopped buying from some online retailers because the packaging they sent was not sustainable. This reflects the results of the Two Sides packaging survey, which found that 62% of respondents said that paper/cardboard was the best for the environment, with 46% of respondents buying more from retailers who are removing plastic from their packaging.
“This new research not only reveals what has changed because of Covid-19, it also shows what priorities have endured and that sustainability is still front of mind for consumers across Europe,” said Stefano Rossi, Chief Executive of DS Smith Packaging. “Retailers and brands need to embrace sustainable packaging at such an important time to ensure they reap the environmental and consumer benefits.”
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