What World Environment Day Means for Sustainable Packaging


What World Environment Day Means for Sustainable Packaging

Each year, World Environment Day brings together governments, businesses, and citizens to tackle the most urgent environmental issues of the time. The United Nations hosts the celebration, which will take place on June 5th. Millions are expected to participate in World Environment Day this year either virtually or through outdoor events. World Environment Day 2021…

What World Environment Day Means for Sustainable Packaging

Each year, World Environment Day brings together governments, businesses, and citizens to tackle the most urgent environmental issues of the time.

The United Nations hosts the celebration, which will take place on June 5th. Millions are expected to participate in World Environment Day this year either virtually or through outdoor events.

World Environment Day 2021 focuses on ecosystem restoration. The United Nations and other global organizations are calling on consumers to be the generation of restoration. Governments are also putting pressure on businesses to participate in the restoration movement.

Pressure from both the public and private spheres is leading industries toward sustainable development and environmental rejuvenation.

Read on to learn more about what environmental actions governments and consumers are taking and how you can aptly respond via your packaging choices.

What is the Value of Ecosystems?

Ecosystems are not only aesthetically pleasing; they provide vital services to both businesses and individuals.

Scientists have classified ecosystem services based on their function. Provisioning services, including providing food, timber, and other natural resources, typically come to mind when people think about how ecosystems benefit humanity.

However, other less obvious ecosystem functions are what make life on Earth possible. For example, ecological systems regulate the environment to provide clean air and water and create soil.

There are also nonphysical ecosystem benefits. Many individuals find value in the recreational opportunities and improved well-being derived from spending time in pristine natural conditions.

Economists have used a variety of approaches to putting a dollar value on different types of habitats. While the precise figures are up for debate, the overall trend of high valuations is staggering.

For example, experts estimated wetland ecosystem services alone to be worth $47.4 trillion per year in 2011. The ecosystem services from soil provide an additional value of $11.4 trillion, according to a study conducted in 2015.

In the past, society has taken the natural resources at our disposal for granted. Subsequently, the estimated mean global ecosystem service value has declined over time.

But all hope is not lost.

The actions we take today will significantly affect the quantities of resources available to us in the future. Depending on how we use and manage the land, the global ecosystem service value can decrease by $51 trillion per year or rise by $30 trillion per year by 2050.

From frigid tundra to steaming tropical rainforests, global ecosystems are invaluable to humans and society.

The United Nations Pushes for Ecological Restoration

The United Nations and other governmental bodies understand the value of ecosystem services. They recognize the urgency of rebuilding and protecting ecosystems.

The public sphere is encouraging rapid and substantial action from businesses and individuals. By working to restore ecosystems, they hope to mitigate climate change and maintain natural resources in the long run.

The United Nations is making an enormous push this decade to turn things around for sustainable development. The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development lays out ambitious goals and related targets to transform society through sustainable development.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals represented in the plan aim to achieve global social, environmental, and economic sustainability. The goals have been adopted by both public and private organizations worldwide.

The United Nations General Assembly initially adopted the agenda in 2015. Since then, countries have progressed in specific areas, such as improved electricity access and maternal and child health.

However, nations are currently not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has further derailed efforts and added another layer of global crises to overcome.

To get the world back on track, the United Nations has declared 2020–2030 as the ‘Decade of Action.’ The intergovernmental body primarily focuses on reversing environmental degradation. It has also deemed this period as the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The United Nations is pushing for concrete actions to undo the environmental harm humans have previously caused. It strives to build ecological and societal resilience for the future.

The United States Commits to Sustainable Development

The United Nations now has the support of the United States under the Biden Administration in working towards sustainable development.

Earlier this year, the United States rejoined the Paris Agreement, recommitting to carbon emission reductions and climate change mitigation. More recently, President Biden pledged to cut United States carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

The infrastructure plan proposed by the President includes provisions for clean energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Biden is currently in talks with legislators to reach a compromise and pass the bill. 

The Biden Administration has environmental ambitions beyond greenhouse gas reductions. The ‘America the Beautiful’ report was released earlier this year by the United States Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce and the Council on Environmental Quality.

The report lays out the administration’s goals for national environmental conservation and restoration. It outlines the need for improved biodiversity protection and ecosystem resilience. These goals signal potential changes to come for businesses related to natural resources, land use, and waste.

The current administration’s declarations indicate that significant changes may be on the way for businesses and how they operate. Such a substantial national transformation would impact all sectors.

Potential Future Environmental Legislation

Based on the proclaimed goals of the Biden Administration, the United States will likely continue to put forth legislation related to climate change mitigation and ecological restoration. These bills may compel various industries to rethink how they make and handle packaging.

With the governmental focus on reducing emissions, the amount and type of energy companies use to create packaging may be scrutinized. Energy efficiency regulatory actions are a possibility for manufacturing, with potential fines for not meeting standards.

On the flip side, tax credits for renewable energy use could make manufacturing packaging with clean energy more affordable.

Individual states are following President Biden’s lead by considering extended producer responsibility legislation. Extended producer responsibility involves shifting the cost burden of packaging recycling or disposal from consumers to producers.

These bills have previously failed to pass. However, the first extended producer responsibility bill could be enacted this year due to the current political climate and pressure from consumers.

Particular government actions, such as fines or increased producer liabilities, can be potential pain points for companies in the short term. However, there are significant long-term benefits of ecological restoration for the private sector.

How Businesses Benefit from Environmental Restoration

In addition to increasing the value of ecosystem services, ecological restoration provides other tangible benefits to businesses. Creating packaging that supports environmental restoration contributes to accruing these numerous long-term benefits for businesses.

  • Reduced Forest Fires

Fires are a naturally occurring process in forest ecosystems. However, improper forest management and climate change foster conditions for larger fires that burn for more extended periods.

These out-of-control forest fires caused $12.87 billion of property damage in 2019 alone. The 2020 wildfires in the western United States have also contributed to this year’s lumber shortage.

While we cannot eliminate forest fires, foresters can manage the risks presented by wildfires through ecological restoration. Forest restoration can help to reduce the magnitude and frequency of forest fires, minimizing their adverse effects.

Rejuvenating and protecting forests can help safeguard both business property and natural capital. 

  • Protected Coastlines

Wetlands and other coastal ecosystems have been subjected to severe pollution and environmental degradation. These habitats help manage flooding, improve water quality, and control shoreline erosion.

Sea levels are expected to rise as a result of climate change. Thus, coastal ecosystems will soon become even more valuable to companies that reside or operate in seaside areas.

Wetlands can be used as ‘green infrastructure’ to help mitigate sea-level rise and subsequent issues like flooding. They can help protect company property and livelihoods near shorelines.

  •  Improved Community Relationships

Companies can also derive benefits from actively participating in ecological restoration.

Corporate law previously required companies to make decisions with only their shareholders in mind. Today, it is considered best practice to think about the impacts to all stakeholders when making company decisions.

Communities constitute a vital business stakeholder. Stakeholder communities include areas where the company is headquartered, workers reside, or consumers live.

Companies can improve their brand reputation by initiating or joining a local restoration project. This contribution can include participating in an annual clean-up event, sponsoring local forest restoration, or another manner of involvement.

Being directly involved in a community restoration project demonstrates your desire to impact the area positively. It can help build both your community relationships and brand image.

Consumer Actions for Ecological Restoration

World Environment Day is not only about governments. Individual consumers are also getting involved. Community events are taking place all over the globe to support and contribute to the United Nations ecological restoration effort.

Consumers will be participating by taking actions such as hosting clean-up events. Brand reputations can end up on the line when buyers find branded trash in their oceans or forests. Making the change to sustainable packaging as soon as possible can let buyers know that your brand is preparing for the future.

Other participants are committing to only buying sustainable products. Without sustainable packaging, these shoppers may overlook your product. This missed opportunity can occur even if the item itself can be considered sustainable.

Brand packaging can either align or misalign with consumer preferences depending on its perceived sustainability. It is vital to consider how consumers view your packaging in 2021 and beyond.

Ecosystem Restoration Through Sustainable Packaging

To meet these ambitious environmental targets, companies have to think about how they impact the environment at all stages of the product lifecycle.

So how can your brand help protect the environment?

Packaging is a great place to start. Developing sustainable packaging can demonstrate your commitment to restoring ecosystems, satisfying customers, and getting ahead of potential future regulations.

Your brand can implement the following strategies to create packaging that meets or exceeds government and consumer standards.

  • Work with Reputable Packaging Service Providers

A product’s sustainability is only as good as its supply chain. Finding a packaging provider that can ensure a low-carbon, ethical, and efficient supply chain is crucial for the sustainable packaging development process.

Packaging service providers with resilient and transparent supply chains can more effectively handle supply chain disruptions. They can also provide information that you can pass along to your consumers to improve brand transparency and sustainability communications.

Fostering a sustainable supply chain lessens the environmental impact of the packaging and can positively impact your brand’s reputation.

  • Leverage the Latest Packaging Technologies

You can incorporate technological innovations in packaging manufacturing and material sourcing to create more advanced sustainable packaging.

For example, bioplastics is an up-and-coming product packaging material. This material is typically biodegradable or compostable, which helps reduce packaging pollution in the environment.

There are many types of bioplastics, each with its pros and cons. Therefore, be sure to consult with an expert if you are considering this option.

Additionally, you can produce more energy-efficient, low-carbon packaging by partnering with a packaging service provider that utilizes the latest sustainable manufacturing technologies. Using fewer fossil fuels in production lessens air pollution and helps mitigate climate change, improving ecosystem resilience.

  • Use Renewable Packaging Materials

Renewable substrates such as paper and cotton are other potential options for designing sustainable packaging.

These materials must be created and harvested in a way that is not harmful to the environment or workers to be considered genuinely sustainable options. Certifications can help identify the best material sources for being a part of ecosystem restoration efforts.

For example, the Forest Stewardship Council offers highly reputable certifications for sustainable forest management and environmentally and socially responsibly sourced wood and paper products.

The Better Cotton Initiative focuses on sustainable cotton sourcing. The nonprofit organization certifies cotton that has been grown to minimize the environmental harms and maximize the benefits. 

Edge2Edge Packaging has expertise in all of these areas. The packaging service provider can guide you in selecting the best sustainable packaging solution for your brand.

Leading by Example

Some innovative companies have already identified and implemented sustainable packaging that supports environmental efforts. Others are directly participating in ecological restoration.

Single-use coffee pods are notoriously difficult to recycle. The coffee product brand Lavazza found a solution to this problem by using bioplastic technology.

The company created compostable coffee pods from bioplastics. They are the first major manufacturer to do so. Not only that, but they partnered with TerraCycle to help ensure that the cups are disposed of correctly.

Creating their coffee packaging from compostable bioplastics prevents the pods from ending up in landfills or persisting in the environment.

L’Oréal initiated its responsible packaging policy early on in 2007. Since then, the brand has been working to improve its packaging sustainability according to the pillars of respect, reduce, and replace.

L’Oréal is making great strides in presenting customers with sustainably sourced paper packaging. In 2019, the brand used paper and cardboard certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or Program for the Recognition of Forest Certification for nearly 100% of its instructions and product boxes.

The timepiece brand WeWOOD actively participates in environmental restoration. The company launched its reforestation program in 2010. Since then, WeWOOD has planted over 442,000 trees around the world. The company has a goal of planting 1 million trees.

World Environment Day is a reminder that the global movement to restore and protect the environment is gaining momentum. Governmental organizations are driving this change with backing from citizens. The shift toward considering the environment in every business decision, including packaging, is inevitable.

Edge2Edge Packaging can help navigate your company through this time of change and find the optimal sustainable packaging solution for your brand. Together, we can meet global sustainability targets, satisfy customers, and restore our Earth.