What makes packaging sustainable?

With the launch of Courtauld Commitment III, how are organisations implementing measures to improve the sustainability of or reduce their packaging.

Phase 3 of the Courtauld Commitment was launched at the beginning of May and one of the targets is to ‘improve packaging design through the supply chain to maximise recycled content, improve recyclability, while ensuring there is no increase in the carbon impact of packaging’. So how do companies achieve this?


When viewing packaging it is important to remember what its purpose is, for example product protection, food safety and to provide information on the food.

Packaging is also necessary for storage and transportation of the goods to the retail store; therefore, maximising vehicle capacity will for example reduce the carbon footprint of the product.

Consequently, when thinking about improving the sustainability of packaging, companies must take into account its full life cycle (as well as cost and social impacts). Whilst reducing or removing packaging can be an effective method it may also increase food waste; therefore, a balance needs to be established.


Many retailers and brand owners have pledged commitments to reduce packaging. One such company recently in the news was Waitrose and an initiative that they recently completed was the reduction in the sleeve width for prepared meals in the ‘Menu for Waitrose’ range. Although this is a small change per pack, a total reduction of 33 metric tons per year will be seen according to Waitrose. This not only makes environmental sense, but also financial sense. Many other retailers have also pledged similar commitments.


With many millions of different product types being sold in the UK every year, how do retailers and producers get to grips with sustainable packaging for all their products? Is this an unbearable cost or will it prove to be a long term saving? If you have been improving the sustainability of your packaging please get in touch to share your experiences.