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Brand strategy: Building a sustainable brand in the packaging industry

Last week, we were lucky enough to join some of the world’s most well-known brands, including retailers and suppliers, at the UK’s leading packaging event in Birmingham, Packaging Innovations. The occasion offered unique and invaluable insights into the future of the packaging industry. Sustainability and the great plastics debate undeniably dominated conversation, having recently been drawn to the forefront of the national agenda by popular television shows and politicians.

In line with this, businesses have lined up to commit to tackling the issue of sustainable packaging over the past few months. In fact, leading UK retailer Iceland has vowed to eliminate plastic on all its own-branded products in the next five years, ahead of government targets. But with heightened awareness concerning plastic waste amongst consumers currently, is this anything more than a PR stunt?

This question was put directly to Ian Schofield, Own-Label & Packaging Manager at Iceland – do Iceland’s motives for undertaking this initiative come down to brand differentiation or knowledge sharing? While Schofield confirmed the latter and the company’s reasons behind the decision, how can we be sure we’re not being fooled by a one-time PR opportunity? And what impact is this having on Iceland’s brand perception? Here are our thoughts…

Despite all the positive reasons for focusing on sustainability, businesses should be wary that combining brand purpose with a sales message can be perceived by customers as untrustworthy and unconvincing in the short-term. Businesses, no matter where they are in the supply chain, need to ensure that sustainability is part of a long-term business commitment rather than “tagging on” a sustainability message to an existing brand strategy. In this sense, it must be clear to customers that sustainability is interwoven with the business’ DNA. Brands such as Bulldog Skincare for Men and Ecover are great examples of businesses with sustainability at their core, attempting to educate consumers and popularize sustainable and environmentally-friendly products.

Sustainability is arguably a business-first commitment – a company must put in place sustainable practices, products and services to back-up a sustainable positioning. In the b2b world, communicating a sustainability message can often be even more challenging, since the implementation of a sustainable supply chain, which is often complex, can be hard to deliver. What’s more, it’s more important than ever for businesses to be able to deliver on their sustainability promise – failure to do so could result in a future PR disaster.

Having heard several packaging experts share their thoughts on the future of packaging at Packaging Innovations 2018, we were left asking ourselves one question: In a market where there are high levels of consolidation, fierce competition and sustainability is the focal point for all involved, how do businesses create and manage a brand that is differentiated, yet “real”?

That’s where BDB can help. If you require support aligning your brand strategy with your business in the context of sustainability, speak to BDB team on +44 161 925 4700 or learn more about BDB Sustain.

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