Sustainability is steadily gaining in importance for consumers. They want ethically and ecologically impeccable products, packaged in a resource-conserving manner that nevertheless ensures their perfect condition when purchased. This is a major challenge to packaging producers, as the industry wants to save on materials without compromising the stability of the packaging in any way.
The Anglo-Dutch consumer goods group Unilever, owner of international brands such as Domestos household cleaner and Dove soap, is pursuing an ambitious strategy. It plans to double its worldwide sales from the current 40 billion euros by 2020, and simultaneously to halve its carbon dioxide emissions by improving efficiency in packaging and production. Moreover, Unilever is assuming greater social responsibility. By 2020, for instance, it aims to have integrated half a million small farmers and traders in developing countries into its supply chain. “We intend to be a sustainable company in every sense of the word,” says Unilever CEO Paul Polman.
For many consumers, sustainability has become an important purchasing criterion. Buyers who formerly seldom enquired about origin, type of production and packaging now put a high priority on ecologically and morally ‘clean’ goods. US market analyst Pike Research estimates that global sales with sustainable packaging will almost double between 2009 and 2014, from 88 to 170 billion dollars. “The environmental awareness of consumers has significantly increased as a consequence of the climate debate,” explains Pike Research President Clint Wheelock.