The Report Report: Products, packaging, CFOs, cleantech, and more

Perhaps it’s seasonal, but the past few weeks have seen a gusher of studies, surveys, analyses, and reports from a wide range of organizations, including three of the Big 4 accounting firms. I’ve perused the latest crop and summarized six of them below.

While many of these reports are worthy of more lengthy articles by themselves, I’ve taken the resource-efficient approach, providing brief overviews and critiques, along with links to access the reports directly if you are interested.

All of the reports described below are free. Some require registration to access; I can’t warrant what happens after that.

Navigating the Product Mindset

Source: UL

What It Says: Today’s manufacturers feel confident about their abilities across a broad range of competencies, including the safety, reliability, sustainability and innovation of their products. Consumers are similarly satisfied with product quality, while product safety is stable or improving. Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more influential and gaining control across the supply chain, demanding more information and getting a more sophisticated understanding of products.

The environment is not yet a primary business issue for manufacturers, and is not seen as a key driver of global trade in the way product safety and performance are. But consumer interest in more sustainable, environmentally friendly products and practices will likely continue to influence manufacturers over time. Coupled with the fact that manufacturers are starting to see profits from environmental products, this will likely result in an increase in mindshare and significance in the future.

What We Say: While not necessarily groundbreaking, the research offers an interesting peek into companies’ future supply chains, which will be even more complex and disperse than today’s. That will complicate demands on companies to increase disclosure and transparency. Interesting takeaway: Manufacturers underestimate the importance of safety to consumers while overestimating the significance consumers place on innovation.

Access: Download here.

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Evaluation of Extended Producer Responsibility for Consumer Packaging

Source: Grocery Manufacturers Association

What It Says: Should extended producer responsibility — laws or regulations that shift the cost of managing post-use products to product manufacturers — be extended to paper and packaging? This study, conducted by SAIC, looks at various EPR models to assess how they change consumer behavior and waste-reduction outcomes. It concludes that EPR “does not provide a price signal that is sufficiently differentiated to cause producers to change package formats,” concluding that there is “no evidence to support the assertion that EPR causes changes in package design or selection.”

What We Say: Such a hard-and-fast conclusion against EPR is slightly suspect, especially given that GMA’s members, who make products sold in supermarkets, would bear the brunt of any EPR regulation. EPR has existed in Europe and Canada for years, and while those markets and social norms may differ from those in the U.S. in several ways, EPR has worked effectively in diverting packaging from the waste stream. GMA argues that city and state waste-diversion laws, which put the burden on households and trash haulers instead of GMA’s members, are more effective means for achieving these goals.

Access: Download here.

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Next page: What CFOs think about sustainability