Prioritize benefits and impacts

Making packaging more sustainable is a continuous process of setting goals, identifying challenges, seeking innovations and assessing progress. To begin, packaging must be understood in the context of sustainability, and specific objectives aligning with sustainability goals must be set.

Every packaging system has a set of benefits and a wide range of impacts, and in theory a design optimization should seek to maximize all of those benefits while minimizing all of the impacts. In practice, however, priorities must be established. Consider the benefits that are most important to the product, and also consider the impacts that are most important based on your company’s sustainability strategy. Does your company prioritize the reduction of water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, or other impacts? What are the packaging benefits that are most important to the product? Progress cannot be measured before clear goals are set.

The functional benefits of packaging systems are different for every product, and while protection is usually considered to be the most important function, there are many aspects of packaging that contribute to social wellbeing and economic prosperity that should not be ignored when pursuing a more sustainable design. For consumer-facing packages, the consumer experience should be kept in mind as an essential condition of performance. Ease of opening, dispensing, and other use functions are paramount for ensuring a new package design is viable for sale. Without such consumer acceptability, the best laid plans for design improvements can fail on the market.