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Millennials and Generation-Z Push for Sustainable Packaging

As consumers raise their expectations that companies practice social and environmental consciousness, brands have a choice: step up or suffer the consequences of doing business as usual. While that statement could have been made a few years ago and been valid, consumer savviness has evolved, making it no longer acceptable for businesses to rely on false ploys, token gestures, and marketing schmack to dupe the marketplace into thinking they’ve made a meaningful commitment to employing enlightened practices. Nope. The game has changed. Much of the consumer movement to elevate environmental and social responsibility is coming from Millennials and Generation Z. These generations shop for brands with values that match their own. In fact, 72 percent of Generation Z said they would pay more for products or services if the companies that provide them are involved in creating social and environmental impact. Considering that Millennials, at 72.5 million, will surpass Baby Boomers in number, and that Gen Z-ers comprise 32 percent of the US population, these younger shoppers have enormous potential purchasing power.

Consumers of all ages are increasingly values-based buyers

It’s not just younger people who care where they spend. According to Edelman’s Earned Brand Global Report, one in two people are belief-driven buyers, meaning they’ll choose whether they’ll purchase a product or service based on a brand’s stand on societal issues. Additionally, 53 percent of people believe brands can do more to solve social ills than the government. If you’re a brand, that’s opportunity knocking.

In the Philippines, plastic packaging is creating such a deluge of waste that citizens are taking action by targeting brands found to be contributing to the environmental crisis—garbage is overwhelming streets and polluting water supplies. Rather than accept the mess, consumers are fast becoming activists, demanding that companies address the problem by creating packaging that is more sustainable and by taking the lead in building proper recycling facilities.

From Method to Walmart, market leaders come in all sizes

One new American company, called Loop, has built a business based on addressing the sustainability and waste problem surrounding packaging. Loop is a service that delivers products straight to a customer’s door in a sturdy tote bag. After use, a customer simply tosses the empty packaging back into the tote, and schedules UPS to pick it up. UPS then returns the packaging to Loop, where it’s washed and refilled with product. Through this process, a shared responsibility in recycling between consumer and business is created. Large corporations like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Nestle have partnered with the start-up and are working together to create packages made with strong materials, like engineered plastic and stainless steel to increase the number of uses they can withstand.

Other leaders in the space are proving there’s no one way to make a profound difference. Method reclaims plastic waste from the ocean for reuse as new packaging. Pela makes phone cases that are compostable and break down into biomass, water, and carbon dioxide. Our Planet Soap puts its bars in 100 percent post-consumer recycled cardboard. These are smaller companies, but even giants, such as Walmart, are making sincere efforts with their sustainable packaging guide.

According to a Nielsen global sustainability report, brands that demonstrated a commitment to sustainability experienced a 3 percent growth in one year, over brands without a sustainability platform. Making our final point one that writes itself: the choice between profits and the planet, might be no choice at all.

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