Sustainability isn’t a trend people will forget about. Or at least that’s the thinking at Zume, the leading sustainable-packaging company. There is increasing awareness that our behaviors have consequences and if we keep going the way we’re going, there are going to be massive environmental consequences. For years, businesses have been increasingly faced with consumers demanding they adopt more sustainable practices. This isn’t just talk either — recent sales trends show consumers are putting their dollars behind products and companies that invest in the environment; proving that the movement towards a more sustainable world is here to stay.
From 2015 to 2019, sustainability-marketed products contributed nearly 55% of market growth to the consumer packaged goods market — everything from clothes to foods. These products represented about 16% dollar share of the category in 2019.
On top of that, sustainable alternatives are expected to be a $385 billion market by 2028. But despite many of the world’s largest brands committing to reducing their waste, not much progress has been made. This is because there are few solutions that are both environmentally sustainable and cost effective.
While the oil and gas industry is an obvious target for green-minded consumers, the food industry is also getting a fair share of attention. Everything that moves, moves in packaging. Especially, the rampant demand for takeout food that has accelerated over the past few years. Food production is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with packaging making up 5% of that. As trends toward convenience and delivery and more nutritious foods accelerate, companies around the globe are actively seeking better container solutions, like those provided by Zume, in an effort to improve food quality, enhance customer experiences and reduce costs.
Here are the trends that I feel are driving the world toward more sustainable solutions:
Green activist investors
In an unprecedented development portending changes in the business world, a “tiny hedge fund dealt a major blow to Exxon Mobil Corp” on May 26, when two of the fund’s nominees gained seats on the oil giant’s 12-member board, Reuters reported. This move “shocked an energy industry struggling to address growing investor concerns about global warming.”
Along with Exxon’s board election resulting in two new members focused on making the oil company more sustainable, shareholders of Chevron voted for a measure “directing the company to take into account its customers’ emissions when planning reductions,” The Washington Post reported. Meanwhile, in Europe, a Dutch court ordered Shell to make even deeper cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions. These actions show the environmental pressures on the oil industry, meaning pressure on the plastics industry, to become more sustainable.
Laws banning single-use plastics
Single-use plastics — including to-go containers, forks, spoons, knives, plates and bowls — is doing is doing visible damage to our ecosystems. These items can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to break down. Because of this, packaging is one of the most damaging sectors to the environment and plastic pollution costs $13 billion in economic damage annually. To put this in a more terrifying perspective, half of all the plastics ever manufactured have been made in the past 15 years. And no, Recycling hasn’t helped.
Countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, China and Canada, have banned single-use plastic bags and other items. Several states, such as California and New York, have also instituted bans around plastic. In 2019, 170 countries agreed with a UN pledge to “significantly reduce” the use of plastics by 2030. Clearly, the tide is turning against plastic, and this coming decade will surely bring more legislation banning single-use plastics.
Americans want to do something about the problem
Although most respondents to a 2020 World Wildlife Fund survey said that the use of plastic packaging is largely unavoidable, they believed that individuals, businesses and government all share responsibility for reducing plastic waste, with businesses bearing most of the responsibility. The respondents also expressed support for a variety of regulations, including laws phasing out single-use plastics that are not recyclable. In another survey, by PBS NewsHour and Marist Poll, most respondents said they’d be willing to pay more for everyday items made out of environmentally sustainable materials. These results signal that given a better option, most people would take it.
These facts have empowered my company, Zume, in our mission to significantly reduce the use of single-use plastics. With advanced material science and tooling and our proprietary machines, Zume matches and exceeds the performance of plastics, at a similar or better price point; giving businesses around the world a solution to keep their sustainability promises. Our solution not only takes single-use plastics out of circulation, they utilize what would have been millions of tons of agricultural waste into something useful.
These developments show that the world is ready to quickly move away from our destructive use of single-use plastics. For large businesses, the choice to shift away from single-use plastics should be clear.