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Convenience at the cost of sustainability? Not necessarily

This article is sponsored by Asia Pulp and Paper. 

The holidays have come and gone, but e-commerce continues to thrive long after the gift-giving season. With speedy delivery times and easy checkout, shoppers have grown accustom to ordering everything they need for their day-to-day lives online and having packages delivered right to their doors.

Rest assured, the growth of this trend should not be underestimated. According to Asia Pulp & Paper’s 2017 Consumer Trends Report, close to four in 10 Americans (37 percent) have had household items such as groceries and cleaning supplies delivered to their home via mail — and 19 percent receive these kinds of deliveries once a month or more often. The companies thriving in this space are conversation starters across the business world: Amazon; Walmart; Blue Apron; Fresh Direct; and more.

Nearly half of Americans believe retailers need to do a better job
But a disconnect exists between the convenience that consumers gain from online shopping and their expectations around sustainability. Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans believe retailers need to do a better job sending delivery items in packaging that better fits the product’s size and reduces waste, and 41 percent believe stores should use sustainable, recyclable or otherwise environmentally friendly materials in delivery packaging.

Some companies have established themselves as leaders and taken responsibility for sustainable packaging, including Amazon, but others still struggle to find the compromise between fast, convenient shipping and sustainable packaging. With strategic planning, retailers don’t have to think of sustainability and convenience as a zero-sum game.

Thinking about sustainability early in the supply chain

To achieve a functional, sustainable solution, brands must treat two distinctly different legs of the supply chain simultaneously: delivery (the last leg) and manufacturing (one of the earliest stages of the supply chain). To do so, these questions should be considered:

  • Does a product require special or larger packaging for protection? If so, can that packaging be sourced more sustainably?
  • What alternative options are available that haven’t been considered in the past?
  • How can my brand achieve the same level of functionality with sustainable packaging alternatives?
  • What certifications exist to ensure this type of packaging is sustainably produced?

Paper manufacturers worldwide continue to develop innovative solutions to safely deliver everything from frozen food to fragile electronics. By exploring all available options, retailers can ensure they choose the right packaging for the right product — eliminating waste while still maintaining high quality.

Understanding the potential to support business goals

Just as the trend toward an e-commerce economy is gaining momentum, so is the value consumers place on sustainability. In the Consumer Trends Report, half of all Americans agree sustainability is more important to them today than five years ago and 52 percent of consumers indicated a willingness to pay more for sustainably packaged products. With more shoppers opting for convenient at-home delivery, investing the time and resources into sustainable solutions not only addresses the important issue of packaging waste, but potentially could lead to a positive impact on the bottom line.

Half of all Americans agree sustainability is more important to them today than five years ago.
In the greater sustainability conversation for a business, packaging and e-commerce cannot be an afterthought. It is often the first impression brands make on a customer. In a saturated e-commerce market, a visible commitment to sustainability can be a powerful differentiator.

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