Consumers say sustainable packaging influences their purchasing decisions


A new report by Drapers, the B2B publication covering the fashion retail industry, in partnership with Smurfit Kappa, the paper-based packaging company, has revealed that packaging matters to UK consumers and plays a significant role in the purchasing decisions of shoppers. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) stated they are more likely to purchase from a brand or retailer if it uses sustainable packaging.

Sustainable packaging strengthens brands’ perception

In the Drapers’ Sustainability and the Consumer 2021 report, fashion consumers stated the packaging material their purchase arrives in matters, with 73% stating that the use of paper or cardboard packaging is important to them when considering a brand’s level of sustainability. Another 77% stated that brands should use as little packaging as possible, while two-thirds (66%) stated it is important to them that the packaging can be recycled.

However, perhaps more significantly for retailers, nearly half (49%) of fashion consumers surveyed said they would pay more for both sustainable packaging and sustainable delivery. In addition, a third (33%) say they have rejected a purchase because of unsustainable packaging. 

Commenting on the importance for retailers to introduce sustainable packaging, Eddie Fellows, CEO of Smurfit Kappa UK and Ireland, said: “Packaging is a visible and tangible signal of a brand’s commitment to sustainability. The report highlights how sustainable packaging is increasingly becoming a significant decision driver for consumers purchasing fashion and an indication of a brand’s sustainable status. It also underscores the importance for businesses to understand the opportunities in moving to sustainable packaging, the ramifications of inaction for reputation, and the role that sustainable packaging can play in reaching sustainability targets. 

“There is often a misunderstanding amongst retailers that switching to a greener supply chain will incur significant investment. We work closely with our customers to help them understand the longer-term cost benefit of optimising and greening their packaging supply chain.” 

Trust gap between consumers and brands, but appetite for change 

The report also highlighted an opportunity for brands and companies to build consumer trust. Consumers want to be more sustainable. It is often the case that consumers do not know which brands are committed to sustainable practices. The research highlighted that over two-thirds (69%) of consumers stated that they did not always trust brands and retailers that say they are sustainable and only 36% believe brands and retailers are doing enough to be sustainable.

However, it is often a challenge for consumers to make exclusively sustainable choices. Shoppers have busy lives, and often have conflicting priorities. Price can remain a barrier for fashion purchases, with 76% of consumers stating they would buy more sustainable fashion if it was more affordable. Taken together with the findings that half of consumers will pay more for sustainable packaging and delivery, consumers are demonstrating a growing appetite to incorporate sustainability into their purchasing decisions. 

Expectation for leadership 

The research found that consumers believe it is retailers (43%) who should be leading the way when it comes to improving performance on fashion sustainability, ahead of Government (27%) and consumers themselves (12%). Despite this, only 27% of consumers believe retailers are leading the way. 

Tony Smurfit, Group CEO of Smurfit Kappa, commented: “Sustainability is one of the challenges of our time. Packaging provides a clear opportunity for brands and retailers to demonstrate their sustainability, and with the continued growth of eCommerce, fit-for-purpose sustainable packaging is an even more integral part of the brand experience. We continue to partner with an increasing number of our customers who are responding to the growing demand for sustainable packaging and as businesses strive to meet, and accelerate, their commitments to deliver a better planet for all.” 

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