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Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility Through Product Packaging

This article was originally published by BillerudKorsnäs. View the full article here!

Packaging is a tangible way to communicate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to customers.

Corporate social responsibility is the conscious effort an organization makes to have a positive impact on the environment, economy and society. CSR matters to customers and affects company bottom lines.

A 2018 global corporate sustainability report by Nielsen found consumers in global markets are motivated to be more environmentally conscious with their purchases. The report found 81% of respondents believed companies should help improve the environment.

Packaging is a tangible way to communicate CSR to customers. Companies that want to remain competitive should use product packaging as a channel for communicating their CSR efforts.

Why CSR Matters


Communicating CSR is a way for companies to increase profits, boost their reputation among consumers and employees, and continually drive product and service innovation. CSR is an important practice for multiple reasons, chief among them:

  • It spurs innovation. CSR inspires businesses to develop ways to make their products and services more sustainable, which can lead to improvements.
  • Customers want it. According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR study, 87% of consumers will buy something because a company supports an issue that matters to them. The study found 76% of consumers will refuse to purchase products or services if a company supports an issue that does not align with their beliefs.
  • It is important to employees, too. According to a 2017 survey of over 2,000 workers by BetterUp Labs, a San Francisco-based leadership development platform, meaningful work is a top driver of job satisfaction — so much so that 90% of professionals would sacrifice 23% of future earnings for work that is always meaningful.

Additionally, cost savings can be achieved with CSR. Information technology company HP set a goal to ensure all paper-based product packaging would be derived from certified recycled sources by 2020. Working with BillerudKorsnäs, the company optimized the box design with new materials that resulted in using 29% less material, reducing potential carbon dioxide emissions by 5,000 metric tons. It also resulted in cost savings of up to $5 million annually.

Similarly, a manufacturer of outdoor grilling products developed and implemented a new packaging solution from renewable, fiber-based material, the shift resulted in the removal of 47,000 kg of PET plastics each year from the packaging's lifecycle.

What CSR Conveyed via Packaging Looks Like


Various elements can be used for communicating CSR through packaging:

  • Graphics related to sustainability and recyclability. These can include a recycling symbol or graphics from nature, like a tree or leaf. Some companies may also create a graphic that shows the impact of their product on the environment, for example, every purchase of a product resulting in one tree being planted.
  • Text. Companies can use text on packaging to explain CSR efforts.
  • Minimal packaging. Reducing packaging material decreases impact throughout the supply chain.
  • Repackagability. If the package can be reused, show the consumer how on the packaging.

CSR information on packaging must be verifiable and updated whenever there is a change. Misleading or false information will hurt customer sentiment and sales. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, 63% of global consumers will stop buying from a company they do not trust.

Working Together Toward CSR


Corporate social responsibility is inherently good for society and the planet as a whole. That is why businesses need to come together to promote CSR. As more customers are informed about the benefits, sales for companies promoting those values will also benefit.

At BillerudKorsnäs we work with other organizations to promote innovation, improve sustainability and share best practices across industries:

We believe that partnerships and strategic working relationships with other organizations will help us better tackle global sustainability challenges.

Making CSR a Priority


A CSR strategy is key for businesses that want to stay competitive. An ING Sustainability Study 2018 found 80% of companies surveyed had formal sustainability strategies in place, and 48% said sustainability concerns impact their growth strategies. The study also found that 87% of companies with integrated sustainability frameworks have experienced revenue growth over the past year, which is 20% more than those with less-integrated sustainability strategies.

Your efforts can increase revenue, improve sentiment with customers and employees, and ultimately help the planet. At BillerudKorsnäs, we are passionate about helping the planet. We help brands realize CSR initiatives throughout their packaging supply chain by taking a strategic approach to sustainability.

Learn more about sustainable packaging and how it can reduce your environmental impact. Download our Designing a Sustainable Packaging Program eBook today.