It’s difficult to believe that we’ve been doing this for three years, but this week marks the third anniversary of the launch of our popular blog. In 2008, our then-marketing director Brad Shorr urged us to blog and share what we know and what we do, with the world. I reluctantly agreed, even though operating a business that openly ran contrary to my nature as well as my experience in the packaging industry, where you learn to never, ever risk educating the competition.
Nearly 300 blog posts later, I am thrilled by the results of our outreach and even more grateful for the people and companies it has brought into our lives. If we have educated a competitor or two along the way, it was a small price to pay for the information we’ve been able to share with hundreds, if not thousands, of people, as well as the relationships we have made.
One of the things we most appreciate is the feedback we receive from our ISP readers, which is quite often sent to us offline. To commemorate this three year milestone we’ve shared a few of the most frequently asked questions.
Is Green Marketing Dead?
No, it’s not even in poor health. It is evolving because of the widespread greenwashing that is so prevalent in the green marketplace. The market potential in terms of sales is far from maturing. In fact, I’m confident it is still in its infancy, but the messaging is indeed growing up and becoming more responsible. Green consumers will no longer blindly accept unsupported claims or vague, meaningless terms hinting at sustainability. The new, educated consumer demands authenticity as well as a “good green story.” As a speaker I recently heard put it, “The company with the best green story usually wins.”
Ironically, we have also witnessed companies creating a great green product but not marketing it as such. It may be because they feel it narrows or reduces the potential market or even because they fear opening themselves up to the scrutiny and criticism of a green community that oftentimes appears never to be satisfied.
Why Aren’t More Green Businesses Thriving?
Keep in mind that most non-green businesses aren’t thriving either due to the weak economy and a lack of leadership and solutions coming from Washington, DC. In addition, most green businesses are relatively new and inexperienced. That would be true of our own company, where my wife and I shared more than 40 years of packaging industry experience when we started in 2007, but had zero experience owning and operating our own business.
Combine inexperience and poor economic conditions and you have a recipe for slow growth or, unfortunately, business failure. We have learned that being a green business or offering a green product is not nearly enough. The basic rules of business still apply, and they include offering exceptional customer service, providing legitimate value, managing expenses and, yes, communicating with the market you hope to serve.
Why Aren’t Packaging Products Greener?
Consider packaging sustainability a work in progress with new products being created and introduced on an almost daily basis. We would be the first to admit that we are not completely satisfied with the relative greenness of some of our Globe Guard® products, so our goal is to offer the greenest packaging currently available.
We continue working with our manufacturing partners to make green advances whenever and wherever possible. Sometimes those greener steps forward come in the form of material reduction with the use of thinner, stronger materials. On other products, the improvement is made by utilizing higher recycled content, ideally PCW (post consumer waste).
What is the Greatest Mistake Consumers Make in Terms of Green Packaging?
Without a doubt, it is focusing on only one aspect of a product’s greenness. My favorite example is still the basic paper outside/poly bubble inside mailer envelope. Buyers read the recycled content of the poly and the paper, and both may be good or acceptable percentages. What they overlook is the fact that these shipping envelopes are not reusable and are designed to be disposable after a single use. Unfortunately, because the paper exterior is laminated to the plastic interior, recycling is not an option and it can only end up in a landfill.
We try to keep it simple and evaluate not only where a product comes from or what it is made of, but also where it is likely to end up. After the product’s initial use, we hope for the best but anticipate the worst by offering products that are reusable (best option), recyclable (next best option) and in that worst case scenario, biodegradable.
We are very grateful to you, our loyal customers and friends who have inspired most of the blog posts for Inside Sustainable Packaging. Three years ago, one of my concerns was not having enough to write about. Thanks to you, there has never been a shortage of topics or great green stories to share with others.