Packaging: How to create a more sustainable supply chain

Plastic pollution is an increasing problem across the globe; UK packaging manufacturers are reacting to this major ecological issue with innovative packaging solutions to make the industry’s supply chains more sustainable. 

Loadhog has established close partnerships with other companies to encourage the exchange of one-trip packaging for reusable products.
Loadhog has established close partnerships with other companies to encourage the exchange of one-trip packaging for reusable products.

Consumers prefer products that provide social benefits and protect the environment over their lifetime. In turn, the UK packaging industry is trying to meet the rising demand for sustainable products.

Green shopping has become important, and a study by Unilever has revealed that 33% of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.

This changing consumer behaviour has an impact on manufacturers’ production processes, as they need to adapt their product range to consumers’ growing environmental consciousness.

More than one in five of the recipients surveyed by Unilever said they would actively choose brands that made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing.

Furthermore, the ‘sustainability trend’ has further reaching consequences.

Not only do consumers place more importance on the sustainability of products, large companies are also deeply interested in creating more sustainable packaging solutions, especially within the supply chain.

Loadhog is one of the UK companies that is taking advantage of the industry’s sustainability trend.

The Sheffield-based company manufactures returnable transit packaging (RTP) solutions for the automotive and manufacturing, retail, postal, glass and beverage sectors.

It is also committed to introducing new patented products, designed with the express purpose of solving packaging and transport problems.

Loadhog seized the opportunity to tap further into the market for sustainable goods by achieving a 26% turnover growth with reusable products that meet customers’ needs.

The packaging manufacturer has established close partnerships with other companies to encourage the exchange of one-trip packaging for reusable products.

In non-sustainable supply chains, packaging solutions are considered as waste.

Jake Charlton, marketing manager at Loadhog, told The Manufacturer: “Since people are becoming more aware of the consequences of the disastrous plastic pollution in the oceans, consumers’ demand for sustainable products is rising.

“Our business strategy aims to reduce the carbon footprint in the manufacturing supply chain; we coach our customers to swap old containers, get them recycled and implement new sustainable containers.”

Loadhog has reported that the results have been productive collaborations with companies such as Decathlon, enabling Loadhog to achieve a £9.6m turnover, representing a 26.6% growth in 2017.

Charlton said: “In non-sustainable supply chains, packaging solutions are considered as waste. Reusable packaging solutions, on the other hand, which add value to the supply chain, can turn ‘former waste’ into an asset.”

Decathlon too has recognised the benefit of increased investment in reusable transit packaging (RTP) and the detrimental environmental effect of plastic waste, and the French sports retailer talked to Loadhog as a manufacturer of RTP products.

Decathlon had already used RTP systems, but wanted to extend its efforts to decrease packaging waste while increasing the performance of its packaging solutions.

With Loadhog’s support, Decathlon swapped its old broken collapsible containers for Loadhog’s innovative, sturdy designs, and started manufacturing using recycled material, with no adverse effects on performance.

The resulting product is able to withstand the harsh environments of the company’s distribution centres, while speeding up the picking processes.

Charlton added: “Usually, only bigger companies invest in sustainable packaging solutions, because they have the appropriate technical infrastructure to set up a sustainable supply chain management.

“However, consulting activities are an important part of our sales strategy, because a company’s conversion to a sustainable supply chain management can be costly in the beginning; the companies have to invest in new assets.”

However, in the long-run, a sustainable supply chain system pays off for companies.

Consulting activities are an important part of the company's sales strategy.
Consulting activities are an important part of the company’s sales strategy.

Unilever research has revealed that 21% of consumers would actively choose brands that made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing.

Essentially, this survey reflects what consumers think about the packaging solutions of products they purchase online, in supermarkets or in other retail environments, but doesn’t reflect the figures referring to packaging solutions used within a company’s supply chain.

However, Charlton also said that both the industry and consumers, more than ever, understand the enormous waste caused by single-trip packaging solutions in contrast to multi-trip packaging.

With the market’s increasing interest in greener supply chain solutions, Loadhog, a member of the British Plastics Federation, is dedicated to supporting the worldwide campaign to reduce plastic waste.