The events surrounding and subsequent to the recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers PwC report; Sustainable Packaging: Myth or Reality therefore give me cheer and great confidence.
Readers of that report and of the press coverage over the past two weeks will know that the PwC research and analysis – all the more powerful for its ‘outsider’ status and objectivity – reached an unambiguous conclusion that ‘sustainable packaging is too broad a term to be useful at a practical level.’ The phrase should therefore be ‘consigned to history’. This is good news.
Not that there is anything wrong at all with the term sustainability: Our friends and colleagues at the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) and ourselves have much to say about it. But from the get-go we have both realised that there can be no such thing as ‘sustainable packaging’. Packaging has no separate existence from product supply. Everything – all factors – within the whole supply and consumption chain are interdependent and contribute to sustainability.
The PwC report has acknowledged these truths: Its findings will now help us all to adjust to the landscape and move on. There has been much good in the exercise. One of the best things about the report and its aftermath was the maturity of responses from all sides. The distinct lack of crowing, for one thing, was impressive and inaudible. One reason? Much of our sector is already out of earshot and is creating real sustainability and efficiencies in the delivery chain.
I would like to make one more point: Much of my working life has been spent in breaking up fights; fights between packaging factions; fights between governments and packaging; fights between packaging and environmentalists.
Lately, it seems to me, we have earned a period of relative peace. We are also seeing a growing convergence of understanding and practice between industry, governments and environmentalists. The last thing we need is a term that distracts us from our common goal.
In that spirit, goodbye sustainable packaging – and long live sustainability – and packaging!