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Sustainable Packaging for the Millennial Consumer

It’s no secret that sustainability is a hot-button issue for consumers, and savvy companies are paying attention and responding to market demand. In recent years, a wave of eco-friendly products have entered the marketplace across industries – from foods and cleaning products to cosmetics and clothing.

And it’s not just small businesses and startups that are investing in sustainability. Well-established brands are also getting involved.

Patagonia has built its brand on being an ethical and environmentally responsible company, even when that means taking the counterintuitive step to discourage its customers from buying more products – as it did in its famous “DON’T BUY THIS JACKET” Black Friday ad.

And Adidas collaborated with nonprofit Parley for the Oceans to raise awareness and take action against marine plastic waste. Adidas manufactured a limited edition sneaker (that quickly sold out), each made from the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles, and raised money through races around the world with the Run for the Oceans project. Adidas has committed to use 100% recycled polyester in all of its products, where possible, by 2024.

Global attention on plastic waste, in particular, is growing. In 2018, the UK announced its intention to ban on all sales of single-use plastics, including plastic straws and cotton swabs. The European Parliament backed a similar ban on single-use plastics in an effort to address wide-ranging pollution.

All of these trends demonstrate that sustainability matters to consumers of all ages. And for younger consumers, millennials in particular, sustainability is worth paying for.

Infographic Sustainable Packaging

A global Nielsen study found that millennials are the generation most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings – close to 75% of respondents, compared with 66% of all consumers. Sustainable packaging was shown to be one of the most influential purchasing drivers; among those willing to pay more, the statement “the product’s packaging is environmentally friendly” was 12 percentage points higher than the global average.

Global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney also conducted a survey about the value millennial consumers place on sustainability. In answer to the question, “When purchasing a product, which of the following sustainability practices is most important to you?” 47% of millennial respondents said “the product is inherently sustainable,” and 32% said, “the product is manufactured in a sustainable way.”

Sustainability matters to millennial customers. They want to spend their money responsibly, and they want to buy products from companies who share their values.

As a business owner, you may be tempted to make purchasing decisions based solely on cost or convenience. But when you align your values with those of your customers, you can foster deeper connections and brand loyalty. Packaging waste is a huge global issue, and one 51% of consumers care about. You can set your company apart from competitors by choosing environmentally friendly packaging materials and letting your customers know why it’s important to you.

4 Questions to Ask When Choosing Packaging

Sustainability is a big concept, and it can be difficult to keep up with best practices in a rapidly changing world. To minimize the environmental effect of your packaging materials in a way that’s appealing to millennial consumers, focus on these four questions:

  1. What are the materials made of?

If you only make one small change, switch from plastic to paper packaging, you could dramatically reduce your environmental impact. Plastic materials are often not recyclable, or if they are, don’t get properly recycled. Paper packaging, on the other hand, is made from fibres that can be recycled over and over to make new paper and packaging – up to 25 times in some cases!

Paper Mailing Bags

Paper Mailing Bags

Eco-friendly alternative to polythene mailers

Kraft Paper Sheets

Kraft Paper Sheets

Recycled wrapping paper for extra protection

Jiffy Green Bags

Jiffy Green Padded Bags

Eco-friendly sturdy postal bags

  1. How are the materials produced?

Look for a packaging supplier that makes sustainability a core value and builds its business model around it. At DS Smith, we weave sustainable practices into every step of our supply chain. We can make, use, collect and recycle cardboard packaging within 14 days, and our box-to-box process makes sure that the same paper fibres are reused up to seven times.


  1. How will I ship products with these materials?

Far too often, companies are shipping products in a box that’s much too big, which then requires more void fill in order to pack around the empty space. If you choose packaging materials sized to fit your product as closely as possible – exploring solutions such as book wrap mailers or Made2Fit boxes – you can save your company money and reduce unnecessary waste.

Book Wrap Mailers

Book Wrap Mailers

Flexible packaging solution for small products

Made2Fit Boxes

Made2Fit Cardboard Boxes

The cardboard box that perfectly fits your products

Returnable Postal Box

Returnable Postal Box

Packaging solution for easy returns

  1. How will consumers dispose of the materials?

Once your customer receives the product in the mail, what do they do with the packaging? Is it clear how they can recycle, reuse or repackage the materials? Consider using mailers that have double adhesive closures and can be used for returns. Or simply include instructions on how customers should recycle packaging – and how their efforts contribute to your company’s mission of sustainability.


Looking for sustainable packaging materials? Search for eco-friendly products in the DS Smith online shop by using the eco-friendly filter.

2019-03-20T11:00:24+00:00March 15th, 2019|Categories: Sustainable Packaging|

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