Packaging for a small planet: Navigating the sustainability maze (Landor Perspectives 2011)

Brad Scott

What's the best way to make product packaging ecofriendly?

Clients and colleagues frequently ask me some variation of this simple question. At least on the surface it appears simple enough, with a few simple answers: Using recycled cardboard and vegetable-based inks. Reducing the size of the box. Putting a recycling logo on the back panel.

Simple, right? Maybe not. To begin with, eco-friendliness is only one component of a broader issue—sustainability.

Acting sustainably means maintaining a balance and not depleting your available resources. In business this often translates into balancing costs against a product's impact on the community where you operate. Some companies refer to this as the triple bottom line, which takes into account profit, people, and planet. Businesses must turn a profit in order to keep their doors open. Workers must be paid fairly and treated decently in order for communities to thrive. And our natural resources must be used with care, respect, and an eye to the future in order for the planet to survive. All these actions sustain our collective well-being—just as mismanagement, pollution, and disrespect threaten it.

Introducing the chief sustainability officer