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How to make your brand more sustainable, starting with your supply chain

  • 23rd August 2023
  • 8 min read

As pressure for the Government to meet Net Zero and build back greener by 2050 increases, so too does the demand from consumers for brands to embrace carbon neutral practices. According to Circular Online, 74% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. 

A difference of opinion

However, a survey by the Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business and YouGov revealed that there’s a massive disparity between the public’s view on how businesses should behave when it comes to environmental issues, and what businesses are actually doing. 

For example, their research revealed that 50% of senior business decision makers admitted they have no net zero strategy in place, whilst 74% of British adults believed that businesses should have one.

Additionally, 30% of senior business decision makers stated that their purpose was to generate profit over sustainability, growth or purpose, but 42% of British adults said businesses should balance profit with social and environmental justice.

The problem with packaging 

Arguably, the demand for businesses in sectors including retail, manufacturing, food and beverage to do more isn’t unfounded, as these industries create a significant amount of packaging waste. 

According to Statista, UK households throw away a staggering 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year, averaging 66 items per household a week. In 2021, 2.5 million metric tons of plastic packaging waste were generated in the UK.

It’s time for brands to stop burying their head in the sand, and take action to reduce your impact on the environment. Your first step is to look at your supply chain and packaging. 

What’s a sustainable supply chain?

Before we dive into making your supply chain (and packaging) eco-friendly, it’s important to understand exactly what a sustainable supply chain is, and what it encompasses. 

For a supply chain to become successfully sustainable, it must take a holistic approach to environmental, ethical, social and economic responsibilities and concerns throughout the entire chain. This includes factors such as:

  • Carbon emissions and carbon footprint
  • Waste
  • Health and safety 
  • Labour conditions 
  • Worker exploitation
  • Transparency 

The components of a sustainable supply chain

Thanks to digital transformation and IoT (the Internet of Things), brands of all sizes can adapt their practices to become more eco-friendly with their supply chain and packaging. According to SAP, a sustainable supply chain is made up of three components: 

A green supply chain

A green supply chain integrates environmentally responsible practices into supply chain management. This includes packaging design, packaging materials sourcing, logistics, and end-of-life management.

A circular supply chain 

Similar to closed loop recycling, a circular supply chain focuses on reusing and re-selling materials and products in their raw form. This means you can achieve environmental benefits of recycling and recoup costs in the process. 

A transparent supply chain 

When a supply chain is transparent, it means you know exactly where materials have come from and what is happening at every single stage of the chain. It is communicated clearly and factually, with information and evidence backing this. 

4 ways to make your supply chain (and packaging) more sustainable

Identify any issues and areas of improvement

First things first, you need to look at every single stage of your supply chain and packaging process and identify any areas of improvement. Look at aspects including:

Returns rates
A high returns rate from customers, or consistently receiving damaged materials from suppliers, may  indicate a few problems including: issues with your packaging supplier, problems with the packaging itself or a training issue in your packaging team. 

Haulage and logistics 

If your packaging has high haulage, it’s likely it’s damaging the environment and costing you a lot of money. Reducing your haulage is a quick way to improve sustainability (and bottom line!) 

Overall conditions of suppliers 

A sustainable supply chain focuses on more than just carbon emissions - it also considers how the workforce are being treated. From checking that workers are being paid a fair wage, to understanding whether the materials are responsibly sourced, you should ensure that the companies you’re working with align with your values. 

Embrace a circular supply chain

In order to package products, you’ll need materials (which is where your supply chain begins). Materials are shipped to the manufacturer, who will then ship this to distribution centres, where they then get sent to you, the customer. 

Your team will spend time packaging products, and materials go on the final leg of the journey and usually end up as waste. However, a circular supply chain adds two extra steps - recycling packaging and sending it back to the supplier. 

One great example of a big brand embodying a circular supply chain is the outdoor clothing company, Patagonia. Since 2005, they’ve been exploring ways in which they could, “create a line that never ended up in a landfill.”

Patagonia’s clothing and products use a high share of recycled materials, and they’ve paired with gear-renting platform Awayco which has increased their use of recycled fabrics. Through their rentals initiative, customers rent clothes and equipment, and then send them back to Patagon, where they’re professionally cleaned so they can be rented again. You can check out their efforts here


However, a circular supply chain may not be immediately possible. However,  you could consider closed-loop recycling in order to extend your packaging’s life cycle. Some options include:

Reduce fuel consumption

Decreasing fuel consumption can have a huge impact on the planet, and it extends further than getting drivers to switch off idle engines. From utilising electric vehicles (EV) to encouraging Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED), both can make a huge difference.

If you’re sourcing your packaging materials from several different suppliers, this will also increase fuel consumption. Consider utilising a single source supplier who will deliver all your materials in one journey, reducing the amount of trips and vehicles on the road, helping to reduce your business’s carbon footprint. 

Review the packaging process and train your team

Contrary to popular belief, machinery and automation isn’t taking our jobs and Skynet isn’t going to turn against the human race anytime soon (we hope…). Machinery can actually help improve sustainability, reduce waste and free up resources. 

Reviewing your packaging process from start to finish and identifying areas where machinery such as stretch wrap machines, or even tape dispensers can be used will make a huge difference.  Perhaps even changing from standard plastic tapes which are being overused to gummed paper tape machines which dispense exactly the right amount of tape each time.

Training your team to safely and effectively package your products can help reduce risk of injury and waste and ensure overall health and safety. 

Following a proper training programme will improve operational efficiency and productivity, as employees can operate packaging machinery proficiently, handle materials effectively, and follow streamlined processes. 

Embrace packaging sustainability with Titan 

Making your supply chain sustainable won’t happen overnight. It takes planning, preparation and a level of expertise. However, working with a packaging partner who aligns with your core values, can negotiate pricing and guarantee brand consistency will help you make those all important steps to reducing your carbon footprint.

Get in touch with one of the experts at Titan Packaging today.

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Written by: Anna Punch Sales Director

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