Packaging and labels will, in future, have a key role in demonstrating to consumers that the products they are buying are sustainable, are produced ethically, and with supply chains that are traceable through blockchain, RFID and QR codes.
Avery Dennison’s The New Transparency report lays open these issues, which were rising fast even ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tyler Chaffo, Avery Dennison’s manager of global sustainability, says: “The coronavirus pandemic has served to show that transparency is a social issue as well as an environmental one, and in fact the combination of these two has shown that they are greater than the parts.”
The label materials producer has already introduced compostable substrates and label materials made from the same plastics as the containers are made from to enable simpler recycling. And this is a trend driven by end consumers wanting to buy not only goods that are good for them, but also good for the planet.
The report, compiled with the help of analysts and researchers at The Future Laboratory, says that this means packaging will need to be made from sustainable materials and be data enabled. Labels will carry information not only about the ingredients of a product, but also about sustainability and traceability of the supply chain. Blockchain technology is already in use to prove the provenance of high value products and has a role in anti counterfeiting efforts as a result.
There is also a trend for brands to be concerned about the waste generated during production processes. In the next decade brands will consider traceability as an investment in their own longevity, the report says.
The evidence is pointing in this direction. US women purchasing skincare products are favouring those with natural ingredients with year on year sales up 14% in 2019 and more than double over two years. The growth is there for organic and vegan labels, which will need to be justified.
There is of course a move away from plastics: Lush, for example, has replaced plastics on some products with cork used containers, and is growing trees to provide the raw material.
Purchasers of food and drink products are challenged by an even more complete supply chain, but want to buy environmentally sound products when possible. Some producers are displaying the carbon count on a product’s label, similar to that printed on Avery Dennison’s compostable material.
In retail sector, there are a great number of schemes for completing the circle, providing packaging that allows for the return of that item or the item that is to be discarded, an old bra sent back when a consumer purchases new. As Renae Kezar, global senior director, head of sustainability at Avery Dennison, says: “We can no longer hide from environmental issues.”