Walk the eco-walk

21 November 2016

Walk the eco-walk

Walk the eco-walk

There are few brands out there that aren’t shouting about how sustainable their packaging is, but saying and doing are quite different things. So, which companies really are doing something special when it comes to being green? Emma-Jane Batey speaks with leading brands including graze, Dr. Bronner's, Marks & Spencer to find out who's walking the walk for the environment.

Creating and manufacturing ecologically responsible packaging is not a new concept; plenty of big and small names alike have been keen to do right by the environment for many years. Smart packaging when it comes to sourcing raw materials and educating consumers is all part of making sure a product is happy in the skin it’s in.


 Graze on goodness


The right packaging is all part of the product for healthy-snack-by-post brand graze. Customers sign up to a weekly graze box of snacks that are 'interesting, delicious and with healthy benefits', with the idea that the packaging enables the goodies to be transported and posted through the customer’s letterbox while keeping the food safe.

Anthony Fletcher, CEO of London-based graze, says, “At graze, we’ve designed our packaging to take great care of our products as they make their way to our customers, while using carefully selected materials that are sensitive to the environment. Our boxes are constructed by a special packaging robot that took over a year to develop, and enables us to use as little card as possible and no glue at all. The card itself comes from sustainable forests and is 100% biodegradable and recyclable.”

Fletcher also explains how the second life of graze packaging is important: “We also encourage our customers to reuse their packaging wherever possible, whether that be recycling our natural skewers made from untreated bamboo at their next cocktail party, or using our punnet boxes as the perfect planters for a graze box herb garden.”


Old news for old brands


For soap brand Dr. Bronner's, which values 'old-world quality and time-honoured simplicity', sustainable packaging is as much a part of the company as its famous liquid and bar soaps themselves. Made and sold in the US since 1858, Dr. Bronner's demonstrates that creating sustainable packaging is nothing new.

The most famous product in the Dr. Bronner's portfolio is its liquid Castille soap, or Magic Soap, with a concentrated formula that comes in a range of natural fragrances including rose, peppermint and lavender. A key part of the iconic soap is the distinctive text-heavy packaging, which has remained almost unchanged for nearly 60 years. Detailing the progressive business practices that form part of the company's mission, the text on the soap labels was written by founder Emanuel Bronner, who spent his life renouncing hate and war on a crusade to unite mankind. The script has helped the company to become the top-selling natural soap-maker in the US, with one bottle sold every three seconds.

“Dr. Bronner's products are safe for your skin and safe for the planet,” says UK PR representative for Dr. Bronner's, Samantha Organ. “The eco-beauty range uses 100% post-consumer cylinder bottles and paper labels. The bottles are all completely biodegradable, and the soaps are made with certified Fairtrade and organic ingredients that are ethically sourced.”


 The eco taskforce


At British multinational retailer Marks & Spencer, environmental responsibility is the subject of a company-wide taskforce titled Plan A. Including aims such as removing plastic microbeads to help protect marine life and using only certified sustainable palm oil in own-label products, Plan A's packaging promise is also about cutting waste and being smart with resources.

CEO Steve Rowe says, “Plan A is a crucial part of how we engage with our customers, gain their trust and make every moment special for them. We know that Plan A is a win-win approach – a simpler, more efficient, less wasteful business is better for the planet and our bottom line – so we'll chase that even harder.”

The Plan A packaging-sustainability credentials see Marks & Spencer dedicated to improving its packaging even though it “doesn't pretend to have all the answers”, following a press release that highlighted the fact that over ten million tons of packaging is placed on the UK market each year, about half of which goes to households, where it accounts for around 20% of the waste stream.

“We are passionate about offering a wide range of safe, high-quality products, and we recognise that packaging and containers play an important role in helping to deliver that to our customers,” says Marks & Spencer’s corporate press officer Daniel Himsworth. “We also know that although packaging is only a small fraction of the overall waste generated, it is very visible.

“We want our packaging to be right for our customers, right for our brand and right for our products. We want to ensure that our products remain protected and hygienic, and stay fresher for longer to help minimise food waste. But, at the same time, we want to be as resource efficient as possible and use materials from the most sustainable sources, which can, in turn, be reused or recycled. Over the years, we've achieved a number of significant packaging successes, including some industry firsts. We were the first UK retailer to introduce reusable food-transit packaging systems, for example, and over 70% of our food is now transported in this way, saving around 20,000 units of single-trip packaging each year. Our Plan A report for 2016 also shows that nearly 75% of all our products have an eco or ethical quality, up from 64% in 2015.”


Post-consumer materials


Leading global skin and body care brand Aveda Corporation has long been driven by its mission to 'care for the world we live in'. Its high-end, high-performance skin, hair and beauty products are all integral to the brand's mission to set an example for environmental leadership, so every ingredient is natural and the packaging's eco-credentials are constantly being pushed.

“We are proud to be the first beauty company with 100% post-consumer recycled PET for skincare and hairstyling,” say members of the Aveda global communications team. “With every package we develop, we're mindful of our environmental footprint, and work to minimise our packaging and maximise our use of recyclable and post-consumer recycled materials.”

The majority of Aveda's plastic bottles are made with a minimum of 80% post-consumer recyclables (PCR), and the company (today owned by Estee Lauder Companies and headquartered in Minneapolis) is continually working to expand recycling initiatives. It also uses 100% certified wind power in production at its main site in Minnesota.

“Our commitments are to eliminate unnecessary packaging, use high percentages of recycled-content materials and design packaging to maximise recyclability,” adds the communications team. “A primary goal is to minimise the use of virgin petrochemical plastics in our packaging. Therefore, where we cannot use 100% PCR HDPE, we have begun to use bioplastic PE as a substitute for petrochemical-based PE. Consistent with that commitment, we entered into an agreement with a mission-aligned supplier of bio-based PE that was first used in our 2013 launch of Dry Remedy Moisturising System.”

Aveda's sustainability goals highlight how the company has long embraced the cradle-to-cradle philosophy that envisions products and packaging made from biological materials that return to the environment as nutrients, and durable nontoxic minerals or synthetic materials that are recycled for use again as 'technical nutrients'.

The Aveda team notes, “Nearly all of our packaging is designed to be a technical nutrient, remaining available as a recoverable material that can be reclaimed as an input into new packaging products without harm to people or ecosystems. The focus with our packaging and product formulas is to design with the potential to close the life cycle loop. As a brand, we are responsible for the products we put out into the world and we are continuing our journey to make progress in this area.”





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