The pressure on all retailers to improve the recyclability and sustainability of their packaging has been increasing considerably, and consumers are voting with their feet when brands fail to take these issues seriously.
For the ecommerce sector, which is growing at an unprecedented rate, it is especially vital that sustainability is addressed, both from a cost and reputational perspective.
Surprisingly, given the heightened consumer focus on the sustainable credentials of packaging, a DS Smith report: The Empty Space Economy found that more than a third of global retail business leaders admit that the packages they ship worldwide are at least double the size of the actual product inside.
Oversized packaging also produces unnecessary emissions equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of Belgium, Pakistan or Argentina and uses more raw materials than required.
For e-commerce retailers, for which good packaging delivers a moment of theatre around the unboxing experience, balancing the design and unique experience packaging creates with its sustainable credentials is essential. To achieve this, ecommerce retailers must embrace smart packaging design, remove empty space and use an alternative, closed loop materials.
A number of major online brands are leading the way in pioneering exciting new packaging for their products. For example, Garçon Wines the inventors of flat wine bottles, is seeking to advance wine packaging into the 21st century by creating an innovative and sustainable wine bottle that “makes the planet healthier, industry wealthier and society happier”.
Alisdair Easton, General Manager at Garçon Wines explains: “Round glass wine bottles that are fragile, heavy and spatially inefficient are, in our view, no longer fit for purpose in a 21st century world of online sales, complex supply chains, resource scarcity and most importantly, climate change.”
Based on the success of its flat wine bottle and postal pack which won more than 10 awards, Garçon Wines knew that to further disrupt the wine supply chain, it would need to develop a multi-bottle pack to amplify the space and weight savings of the individual bottles.
Working with DS Smith, a game-changing secondary packaging format was devised that would significantly cut carbon emissions and logistics costs. By packing eight flat bottles vertically with two lying horizontally in the airspace around the bottlenecks, almost all unused airspace was eliminated.
Garçon Wines’ new 10 Flat Bottle Case is approximately 55% spatially smaller than an average 6 round, glass bottle case. This innovative space saving means that a pallet loaded with 10 Flat Bottle Cases could carry 1,040 bottles of wine in comparison to just 456 traditional bottles of wine with a standard pallet load. Fitting 2.28 times more wine on a pallet translates to far lower costs in terms of packaging, warehouse handling and storage, and transportation. For example, the 10 Flat Bottle Case would significantly reduce the need for heavy good vehicles (HGVs), which carry a standard 24 pallets from five HGVs to just two. This would have a direct, positive impact on the reduction in carbon emissions and costs by at least 60%.
The Modern Man is another example of an e-commerce business for which high-performance and well-designed packaging has always been crucial. More recently, the retailer became concerned about whether its packaging aligned with its wider sustainability commitment.
Matt Crowson, a founder of The Modern Man, explains: “We were increasingly distributing a number of vegan and sustainable grooming products and it seemed incongruous for us to be using additional resources to print on the inside of the box. While telling our brand story has always been crucial, our approach to this narrative changed. Recyclable packaging, made with recycled materials, and resulting in minimal waste became a top priority.”
To create a more sustainable e-commerce pack made from recycled materials, the new packaging removed printing from the inside and incorporated a recyclable, corrugated pad which secures the product without any need for void fill or packing materials. Empty space became minimal, ensuring product protection and preventing the company from paying unnecessary transport costs.
To meet increasing consumer expectations on packaging today and in the future, brands need to shake things up and disrupt the norm. Through smart design and the use of alternative and recyclable materials, ecommerce retailers can play a meaningful role in transforming the sector’s sustainability performance.