Published on November 16, 2023, 8:35 pm

Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, predicts that by 2026, 20% of organizations will shift their focus from recycling and eliminating plastics to reducing the carbon footprint of their packaging. This shift comes as most public commitments to sustainable packaging are at risk of going unfulfilled.

While organizations that fail to meet their pledges may face greenwashing backlash, early movers who successfully educate stakeholders on the benefits of life cycle assessment (LCA) as an alternative sustainability metric will be better prepared to defend their contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

John Blake, senior director analyst with Gartner Supply Chain practice, explains that the packaging ecosystem has not progressed as rapidly as anticipated by organizations who set targets in 2017 and 2018. He notes that meaningful progress can still be made towards sustainability with more realistic frameworks in place.

The popular commitments to sustainable packaging have centered around ensuring that 100% of packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. However, Gartner previously predicted that 90% of companies with such commitments would fail to meet their objectives. Additional estimates from non-governmental organizations also suggest that mainstream disposal, collection, and recycling efforts will fall short.

In response to these challenges, Gartner expects enterprises to shift their focus towards lower-carbon packaging instead of focusing solely on recyclable materials and plastic elimination. By using less packaging material or opting for more efficiently produced and transported materials, organizations can achieve an affordable reduction in carbon footprints.

Although life cycle assessment of packaging was piloted over a decade ago, its adoption was hampered due to data analysis complexity and lack of relevancy at the time. However, new data analysis tools have made packaging LCAs more accessible today. Organizations are now expected to develop messaging around the carbon footprint of their packaging and describe how they are taking action to offset greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the risks associated with global warming.

According to Blake, while missing sustainability targets can have negative consequences in the public eye, organizations that acknowledge the unfeasibility of their previous brand-driven objectives and adopt a more realistic and effective approach will make more progress towards their sustainability goals.

In conclusion, with many sustainable packaging commitments at risk of being unfulfilled, organizations are shifting their focus to reducing the carbon footprint of their packaging. By embracing lower-carbon packaging options and leveraging tools like life cycle assessment, they can make meaningful progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change.

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