More than ticking the ESG box: the opportunity in packaging


More than ticking the ESG box:
the opportunity in packaging

Innovation comes in many forms, but sometimes it is enhancements to the most mundane items that offer the best returns. There has quietly been a lot of focus on packaging over the last few years from several perspectives, which potentially makes it a good place to look if you are seeking to simultaneously diversify your portfolio and live up to your ESG ambitions.

How can companies make their products lighter and smaller to reduce shipping costs, and underscore their commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors? What’s the one thing that companies can change to make their product stand out on the shelves or websites, ensuring that they sell more than their competitors? How can companies enhance the shelf life of their products, bring down wastage and improve the bottom line?

They can change their product’s packaging.

It really isn’t a very glamourous subject, but packaging is something that unites virtually all products that are sold. It reflects brand values and makes it simple to spot the difference between one brand and another. The fact that it has also been undergoing a quiet revolution over the last few years makes it an interesting place to look when you are seeking alpha.


More and more companies are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and one of the quickest ways to do this was to reduce the amount of packaging that a product was delivered in.

Several companies have been working on ways to reduce the physical size and the weight of packaging so that more items can be shipped on fewer lorries to reduce haulage costs. Obviously, this can’t be done at the expense of the protection the packaging offers the product itself, so there has been a great deal of work on ways of strengthening the materials used. The materials themselves are also changing, with far less focus on plastics derived from oil. Companies are developing innovative approaches to packaging involving potato starch, seaweed algae and even coffee grounds, creating packaging options that offer protection with less impact on the environment.

There are cost implications from moving towards some of these non-plastic alternatives, but the costs are likely to come down as products are proven and production is scaled up.

More than just cardboard and tape

The global vaccine rollout, meanwhile, reminded us that packaging plays a fundamental role in keeping products in a usable state.

In the case of vaccines in general, often the places that need them the most can be the places that are least equipped to manage them. In these circumstances keeping the contents of a package in a temperature-controlled environment can have a significant impact on getting a product to where it needs to be quickly, with as many doses and as little waste as possible. It is also important to know whether the integrity of a container has been compromised so that time and effort isn’t wasted on delivering medicines that are no longer effective.

It’s a tall order, but there are technical packaging firms that are approaching this challenge head on. Working on efficient new ways to deliver products, such as medicines, that simultaneously allow producers to deliver with a high level of security.

What happens next

The other major consideration has been what happens to the packaging once it has been used. In the case of transportation packing for things like pharmaceuticals, ensuring that it can be reused is key.

For retail products, making sure that it is compostable or otherwise recyclable is one of the most important steps. At first glance, this might sound like a charter for delivering every product in a mundane brown box, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Part of the reason Apple has been so successful is that their relatively simple cardboard boxes are immensely satisfying to open. Granted, the tech inside the box is generally pretty good as well, but the awe starts well before you get anywhere near the on-switch.

Meanwhile, there are food companies that are creating edible packaging that can be consumed along with the contents, and one major global tech firm has taken to delivering its televisions in boxes that can be converted into a playground for cats, amongst other things.

Packaging’s only limit is imagination it seems. The only thing that’s certain is that it’s changing rapidly, and where there’s change, there’s opportunity.

More than ticking the ESG box: the opportunity in packaging


  • Packaging is changing rapidly; driven by both transport costs and environmental considerations
  • Covid-19 highlighted the importance of technical packaging that could protect vaccines as they are shipped and distributed
  • It’s an underestimated sector with a great deal of opportunity


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More than ticking the ESG box: the opportunity in packaging



Membership Executive

Membership Executive

More than ticking the ESG box: the opportunity in packaging