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OPINION: Why sustainability is key in ecommerce packaging

OPINION: Why sustainability is key in ecommerce packaging

The pandemic made consumers more aware than ever of sustainsbility and retailers need to react to the new demand when it comes to their packaging, says Gavin Mounce, ecommerce design manager at DS Smith Packaging UK
If I had to place a topic or trend as the priority on most businesses’ targets, then it would be sustainability. COVID was a catalyst for growth in ecommerce, which did nothing to dampen customers interest in sustainability, but actually accelerated it for many with the amount of packaging they were receiving in their homes.

In the corrugated industry, just using recycled papers to make a box is no longer acceptable as a sustainable solution. Customers are demanding more granular information on all elements that make up a corrugated box, from inks to glues and tapes.

We are certainly seeing many more requests from customers looking for additional support in achieving greater sustainability, which led to the development of our Circular Design Principles. These are a set of five principles which guide our experts to develop circular packaging solutions. Whilst improvements are necessary, it is also vital to measure and compare the performance of a packaging design across a range of indicators. Our Circular Design Metrics include eight different indicators, such as recyclability, that provide a clear indication of circularity performance and help identify areas with potential for improvement.

The need for supply chain efficiency

Alongside sustainability, the unprecedented rising cost of energy, fuel and raw materials means that supply chain efficiency has risen up the priority list for retailers. This means that no stone can be left unturned, from sourcing to manufacturing, packing to shipping, there has never been a better time for brands to undertake supply chain audits. When used in conjunction with supply chain testing, they are the perfect way to identify opportunities that generate savings and value.

There has been a huge general increase in demand for testing, as customers understand the need to get it right first time before launching new solutions out into the complex e-commerce supply chain.

Whilst it is important to get the performance right of new packaging innovations, supply chain testing can also be used to increase sustainability, by ensuring only the optimum amount of material is used for the customer’s specific supply chain.

New omni-channel demand

Global brands are increasingly starting to invest in omni-channel packaging solutions, despite omni-channel having been around for years. The sudden growth of e-commerce caused by the pandemic, along with the changing demands of the consumer, have made brands acutely aware of how vulnerable they were when operating in a single channel.

The boundaries between the high street and e-commerce are certainly beginning to blur, but omni-channel solutions can be incredibly difficult to create due to the complexities and needs of very different supply chains.

DS Smith continues to make strategic business decisions in order to deliver on its mission of Redefining Packaging for a Changing World. Whilst the current business environment is certainly challenging at present, changes bring new opportunities. This is why we are investing £100 million in research and development, to ensure we offer next generation packaging solutions for the rapidly changing world around us, that are not only sustainable, but also bring value and create significant opportunities for our customers.

Written by Gavin Mounce, ecommerce design manager at DS Smith Packaging UK

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