How can brands and media help shape a circular future?
As demand for recyclable products grows, companies are striving to make their products more sustainable – from how they’re designed and marketed, to what information is available on their disposal.
With European legislation imposing increasingly stringent requirements on recycling and on-pack sustainability information, brands and retailers must ensure the genuine recyclability of their products, and effectively communicate on this. So how can companies navigate these changes, and responsibly convey clear messages on recyclability to the people using their products?
Our latest live Q&A welcomed María García de la Fuente (President of APIA – the Spanish Association of Environmental Information Journalists) and Sandra Santos (CEO and Board Member of BA Glass) to delve into the role media and industry play in preventing waste, promoting recycling and delivering factual information.
Business transformation that goes beyond buzzwords
With sustainable transformation intensifying, what was once considered a “nice to have” for brands has now become both a core business priority and an expectation from consumers. From drinks giants like Diageo, Estrella Damm and Carlsberg to artisan food producers like Pip & Nut, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are looking to align their environmental goals across their whole supply chain, including in their packaging.
“The decision to buy a product is not influenced by price alone: people read labels and ask what a product is made of, what materials are included in the composition, whether or not they are recyclable and what measures the company takes to prevent waste.”
– Maria García de la Fuente
Glass packagers have long offered an inert, circular packaging option to brands and retailers – and as the industry looks ahead to new EU laws on sustainability, we see an opportunity to boost recycling even further. Across all our supply chains, we need to adapt how we collaborate together to spark sustainable transformation in how we produce, supply and recycle our packaging, to speed up a circular economy for products and services that becomes a win-win situation for all those involved. Here, collaborative initiatives like “Close the Glass Loop” bring together industry and external partners to promote recycling and increase collection rates of glass packaging across the full value chain.
In tandem, producers are devising a range of strategies to make glass production more sustainable, together with suppliers, including lighter-weight containers, renewable energy, and advanced furnace technologies. This wide-ranging decarbonisation transformation will follow the path of available renewable energy in each country, with the industry committed to a fully climate-neutral production by 2050.
Offering clear, consistent information on sustainability
With consumers paying more attention to labels than ever, showcasing these initiatives through clear communication is key to help consumers to make informed choices. This could mean illustrating their ongoing environmental progress through impactful campaigns, or highlighting a brand’s own sustainability commitments through labelling or on-pack symbols such as the Glass Hallmark.
“The glass industry has innovated a lot in eco-design. Providing specific information on containers, like whether they’re made from recycled glass, would be a good way to explain to consumers that they can choose to buy products with less environmental impact.” – María García de la Fuente
While embracing sustainability is nothing new for glass producers, from embracing circularity and high use of recycled content to committing to the climate-neutral energy transition, traditionally industry has maintained a low-key approach to communicating with consumers.
Yet, by partnering with brands and retailers to offer clear, consistent information on what glass can bring to the circular economy and counter inaccurate environmental claims from other materials, we can help to create a level playing field – one where consumers can access accurate, understandable information to make informed choices about their everyday products.
Transparent, proactive storytelling on environmental progress
The media, in turn, has a crucial role to play in telling authentic stories and disseminating fact-checked information to consumers, distinguishing between what is greenwashed, and what is verifiable – whether on environmental progress or human health concerns, or how the two intersect. In this sense, upcoming legislation around greenwashing will not only protect consumers, but also the media. With the public experiencing mounting eco-anxiety over climate change, journalists are in search of positive stories on environmental initiatives, including reporting on projects that can inspire not just their readers, but other companies and sectors to take action of their own. This presents significant storytelling opportunities for brands who are willing to embrace sharing their progress.
“I would like to tell our customers that they have a huge responsibility to contribute to better future, because they are the ones that can really influence consumers. We are ready to partner with you but you have a huge responsibility to drive this change.” – Sandra Santos
Here, third parties can have a huge role to play in building trust. For example, by involving scientists from organisations like the Food Packaging Forum as advisors on chemical compositions, brands, suppliers and retailers can share accurate, transparent information on the impact of their packaging materials on both the environment and human health, and help consumers to better understand the long-term consequences of the choices facing them on the shelves.
If we take one thing away from this conversation, it’s this: consumers are becoming increasingly educated on what sustainability means today, meaning that transparent, fact-based communication is simply business sense. In turn, brands and retailers must actively engage with their suppliers, working together to implement better, more environmentally-friendly solutions – and ensuring that this story is told. In this way, the products we rely on every can help shape a circular future – one that addresses the pressing environmental challenges at hand.
Did you learn anything about the progress companies are making on offering sustainable packaging? Do you think the media has a crucial role to play in bringing accurate information on products to light? Head over to LinkedIn and let us know! To keep up to date with the latest trends in the glass industry or our upcoming Q&As, don’t forget to follow our LinkedIn account.