CHANNELS    |    Behavior Change      Leadership      Products & Design      Supply Chain      Marketing & Comms      New Metrics    |    MORE

The Evidence Is Clear: Consumers Want More Sustainable Packaging Options

Image credit: LivingEthos

With the holiday season upon us, millions of shoppers are in the midst of purchasing wrapping paper and packaging for their gifts this year. What might surprise many is how much consumer commitment towards environmentally sustainable packaging has increased.

According to a new survey conducted by business research firm Opinion Research Corporation International (ORC) for Asia Pulp & Paper, 35 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for eco-friendly holiday gift bags; this number is even higher for younger consumers. When looking at a breakdown of the data by generations, 44 percent of Millennials (ages 18 to 34 years old) would pay more for sustainable gift bags and packaging. Coupled with the fact that 78 percent of Americans say they now reuse holiday gift bags, it’s clear that consumers are increasingly conscious of the impact that the gift-giving season can have on the environment.

Wrapping Gifts in Sustainability

Click to enlarge.

What’s more, this interest in more conscious gift-giving extends beyond how they are wrapped. The survey also found that more than half (52 percent) of consumers prefer to give holiday gifts that have more environmentally friendly packaging.

As we move into the New Year, brands and packaging professionals must be mindful of the role that sustainability plays when consumers make packaging purchase decisions. The data yielded from the survey offers pragmatic insights on consumer preferences and how they prioritize sustainability in the product/packaging materials they purchase. These insights can lead to a deeper level of understanding and engagement with customers — which, by extension, can aid overall brand loyalty.

Beyond the holidays, consider the following findings about consumer preferences when it comes to paper and packaging:

  • Majority of Americans prefer more environmentally sustainable options for paper and packaging. According to the survey, 56 percent of Americans want more sustainable options for the paper and product packaging they purchase. In previous years, consumers may have perceived more sustainable packaging options as a “nice to have,” but as sustainability has become more of a priority for Americans, businesses must be attuned to these shifting marketplace dynamics. This insight builds the case that brands should be regularly integrating more sustainable materials into their products and packaging. In addition to offering more environmentally friendly options for consumers to choose from, companies should make strides to source packaging materials from increasingly sustainable and transparent sources.
  • More than half of Millennials are willing to pay more for earth-friendly/deforestation-free packaging options. 52 percent of consumers in this younger age group indicate that they are willing to shell out additional cash for more eco-friendly packaging options. According to data on U.S. demographics, at approximately 86 million, Millennials represent the largest age cohort in the United States. Given these numbers and the tremendous influence that Millennials wield relative to their purchasing power, the packaging industry must pay close attention to their preferences. Moreover, the fact that Millennials are willing to spend more for eco-friendly/deforestation-free packaging options represents not only an environmental imperative for brands, but an economic one as well. There is a clear financial incentive for companies to make smart investments in zero deforestation and other sustainable practices, which extend to the packaging materials they put out in the market. Companies that are better prepared to handle these changes will be in a more competitive position.

If there is one thing that brands should take away from these findings, it is this: An increasing number of Americans are placing value on the sustainability of a company’s product packaging and broader environmental practices. This is a fundamental and critical marketplace shift that should extend well beyond the holiday shopping season and into all aspects of a company’s operational and manufacturing processes. Brands would do well to be mindful of shifting consumer preferences and buying habits, particularly from the perspective of how sustainability will influence purchasing decisions and brand loyalty. Companies that don’t prioritize the integration of stronger and more transparent environmental practices in their supply chains and products could suffer from a reputational and business performance standpoint.


Ian Lifshitz is the North American director of sustainability and public affairs for Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP). He is responsible for leading the company's sustainability and media relations and other related stakeholder engagement programs across Canada,… [Read more about Ian Lifshitz]