We appreciate it could be argued that the most sustainable packaging solution would be to remove secondary packaging from products altogether. However, we also know that packaging has value as part of the luxury experience and that the act of "gifting" is something that is not going to go away either. For thousands of years people have given gifts; we are always going to celebrate events or people, or ourselves through gifting. Beautiful packaging is part of the unboxing experience which adds value to the consumer and that experience cannot be re-created any other way.
Secondary packaging also has many other uses that go way beyond the experience of gifting. Any brand owner would be the first to say how integral packaging is to a luxury product - providing differentiation, protection, conveying information, shelf appeal to name a few examples of what packaging can achieve.
So, the question here, therefore, is not whether secondary packaging should be removed entirely, but what we can do to ensure that the packaging we create has minimal impact on the planet.
Luxury packaging has an intrinsic value
Think of brands that you enjoy and are proud to associate with. We are often proud to show off a new watch, or a handbag - it says something about us as a person. With luxury goods, and, in particular, those that are consumable such as spirits or beauty items, the packaging has its own brand value too. People often keep packaging as a reminder of the product long after it has been used, but why do some packaging products stand the test of time, while others are thrown away?
The projects we work on at Hunter Luxury often combine a range of complex materials and processes that, arguably go beyond what would be considered “packaging”. Good quality, luxury packaging is designed in a way that gives it added value as part of the whole brand experience, which is not always the case for cheaper, disposable, or “eco” packaging options.
Aligning real sustainability with consumer’s needs
Saying that, consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability and now also adapt their buying habits based on their favourite brands’ approaches to the environment. The definition of sustainability is hugely nuanced and not something that, at Hunter Luxury, we are in place to dictate to our clients. However, we do continually support our clients as they navigate the changing needs of their customers.
Currently, consumer survey data from The Pull Agency tells us that there is a drive for many brands to reduce their consumption of plastic and to better communicate how to recycle packaging after it has been used. And we do a lot of work to use recycled plastics where possible for our clients faced with those challenges.
We also try to look to the longer term, however, and to understand what sustainability might mean to consumers in the coming years. Recent research and a movement amongst plastics and sustainability experts including Dr Chris DeArmitt suggest that plastics may not be the worst option as part of the wider picture. For example, life cycle analyses often show that glass, is less sustainable than PET and that the manufacturing of plastics can be more energy-efficient than paper, for example.
So, with this changing landscape regarding what sustainability really means, where does that leave us? Well, it can be argued that luxury packaging is not environmentally friendly to create in the first place, but assuming that it is still needed, as we've discussed above, let's look at what we can do to improve its sustainability credentials and reputation amongst consumers.
An ongoing project by luxury brand group, Kering – The Environmental Profit & Loss Account (EP&L) initiative – illustrates that the consumer use and end-of-life phases only account for 8% of a product’s impact, the remaining 92% is made up of raw material processing, production, manufacturing, processing, shipping, etc.
This suggests that making fewer things that last longer, rather than repeatedly producing recyclable materials into new items could be a viable solution for luxury packaging. Part of the Kering initiative model, which really brings this idea to life, is a tool that attributes a monetary value to an item, taking all of these phases into account. The results tell us that cheaper throwaway items have a greater overall cost than, for example, a well-made leather bag that can have a lifespan of up to 7 years.
Considering the years of usefulness well-made packaging can give - whether to proudly display a valuable bottle of whisky or to hold a collection of make-up brushes - reusability could be argued is the true definition of sustainability. So, in short, at Hunter Luxury we believe that, by continuing to manufacture quality packaging designed with re-use in mind, we can create luxury packaging that continues to have value for many years to come.
DESIGNED WITH RE-USE IN MIND
Learn about Hunter Luxury's views on reusability and how our approach can work for luxury packaging.