Jim Nordmeyer, Vice President, Global Sustainability
It wasn’t all that long ago that the notion of sustainability was paid only lip service in business circles. Only if you were specifically targeting environmentally conscious consumers would it make, sense to embrace environmental impact as a core marketing principle. But when appealing to a mass market, the now outdated conventional wisdom was that sustainability was something consumers claimed mattered, while their behavior told another story. Oh how the times have changed.
Today, caring about your bottom line means caring about the environment because your customers do. A 2014 study conducted by Kelton Global found that two-thirds of Americans recycle on a “regular basis,” and the number of individuals who prioritize recycling is trending upward as more millennials move into the workforce and gain greater sway over the economy. These market forces and consumer preferences for sustainable products position glass as the ideal packaging option for businesses that wish to appeal to today’s eco-conscious consumer.
Small footprint, big impact.
Sustainability is a broad term used to describe the myriad ways in which a product or process can impact the environment. Carbon footprint (a measure of greenhouse gases emitted) is one way. On average, a glass container has a smaller footprint over its lifecycle than aluminum or PET containers. This measure takes into account not only the raw materials themselves, but the process by which those materials are used to create a package.
Cradle to Cradle.
The composition of a package is another way to measure its sustainability, and glass is made from three abundant and natural ingredients: sand, limestone and soda ash. When glass breaks down, it remains safe and stable, and releases no harmful chemicals into the soil. So even when glass isn’t recycled, it does minimal harm to the environment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification as a top-tier product sustainability standard in its new federal green purchasing guidelines. Companies like O-I have achieved a gold rating material health on the Cradle to Cradle Product Scorecard – a premier sustainability certification for products around the world and across industries.
Round and round.
Of course, when it comes to recycling, glass is among the most recyclable materials on the planet – 100 percent recyclable, in fact. Which is probably why 80 percent of all recovered glass bottles are made into new glass bottles. Why does this matter? Because every 10 percent increase in recycled glass results in a 5 percent decrease in emissions and a 3 percent decrease in energy consumption.
The bottom line.
The evidence is clear that using glass packaging is good for the environment. But is it good for business? These days the answer is an unequivocal yes. Ninety percent of consumers say that recycling materials is important, and two-thirds of them are willing to pay a little more for eco-friendly and socially responsible products. An increasing amount of consumers are putting their money where their beliefs are, and a company that shows it’s being environmentally responsible is a company that stands a greater chance to earn and keep the brand loyalty of today’s eco-conscious consumers.
Beyond the environment.
Where you find customers who are concerned about what they put into the earth, you’ll also find customers who are concerned about what they put into their bodies. Seven in 10 consumers report that health plays a significant role in their product purchasing decisions, and more than 60 percent have altered their buying habits to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals.
Because glass is the only packaging material to earn the GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) designation from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration*, consumers can trust that glass adds nothing harmful to their favorite beers, wines and liquors.
Times have changed. Today’s customers are more aware of what goes into the earth, their products, and their bodies than ever before. This age of information brings with it great opportunities for those who lean into the sustainability of their product packaging. Glass, with all of its eco-friendly attributes, is more than just a package. It’s a motivating force when it comes to creating and sustaining brand loyalty.
Killinger, Jennifer. “New Survey: Half of Americans Say They Recycle 75 Percent or More of Recyclable Items.” New Survey: Half of Americans Say They Recycle 75 Percent or More of Recyclable Items, American Chemistry Council, 14 Nov. 2014, www.americanchemistry.com/Media/PressReleasesTranscripts/ACC-news-releases/New-Survey-Half-of-Americans-Say-They-Recycle-75-Percent-or-More-of-Recyclable-Items.html.