Survey identifies opportunities in sustainable paper packaging

A survey published by Soil Association Certification has identified significant opportunities for organic businesses looking to utilise sustainable card and paper-based packaging solutions.

The survey results followed research published in June that revealed the overwhelming majority (67 per cent) of shoppers expect organic to be packaged in a more environmentally friendly way than non-organic.

It asked a range of questions on packaging, including whether businesses were looking to reduce their plastic packaging, if they already had a sustainable procurement policy in place and what issues they face when trying to source more sustainably produced paper and cardboard packaging.

While nearly 90 per cent of those businesses surveyed are looking to reduce their use of plastic, only 60 per cent had a procurement policy covering sustainable sourcing of packaging and only 40 per cent specify sustainable sourcing (FSC or other) for paper and card, with 55 per cent not using any FSC certified materials.

One of the more surprising findings from the survey was that many businesses that use sustainable, FSC-certified paper and card do not include the FSC logo to highlight their sustainable credentials on pack, citing a lack of consumer understanding of the FSC logo and a lack of space.

FSC research shows, however, that 55 per cent of consumers recognise the FSC tick-tree logo and three quarters would rather buy a product bearing the FSC logo to an otherwise identical one without, supporting previous Soil Association research that found a strong preference from shoppers for packaging that is clearly labelled if it is biodegradable, recyclable and environmentally friendly.

Despite the positivity surrounding the potential uses of sustainable card and paper, 50% of businesses don’t use or plan to increase their use of paper or cardboard.

Kevin Jones, Head of Forestry for Soil Association Certification, believes this represents a missed opportunity for producers. He said: “Our research to date suggests that there is a real desire among both business and consumers to reduce plastic use.

“Schemes like FSC certification mean that responsibly sourced paper and card can be a solution for many.

“From what industry are saying, more needs to be done to improve consumer understanding of the FSC logo and responsible forest management.

“Where businesses are sourcing FSC materials, the logo should at the very least be visible for shoppers to see.

“We recognise that there are practical limitations to the use of card and paper for some businesses and we hope that by bringing organisations together at today’s forum we can help stimulate innovations that go some way to reducing plastics in the organic and other supply chains.” 

Tallulah Chapman, Communications Manager, FSC UK, said: “Without ensuring that forest-based materials such as paper are responsibly-sourced, those that choose these materials for their packaging could inadvertently be supporting destructive forest management practices, which negatively impact people and wildlife.