A new survey from Smurfit Kappa has revealed the extent to which businesses are rethinking their products and packaging solutions in their efforts to tackle environmental waste.

The Sustainability and Profitability Survey, which was conducted among 200 senior business executives, found that sustainability is driving all R&D and new product development in more than a third of companies.

The research also reveals how businesses say they are focusing on packaging specifically as a key innovation opportunity, with seven in ten businesses citing materials in packaging as their biggest sustainability challenge, followed by collection and recycling (59%), and the materials used to manufacture products (56%). Furthermore, almost nine in ten businesses claim to have included used or recycled material in products or packaging as part of their sustainability strategies.

Commenting on the research findings, Arco Berkenbosch, Smurfit Kappa VP of innovation and development, said: “This research highlights that businesses are now having to address sustainability in a challenging economic environment and that consumers will continue to drive the sustainability agenda.

“There are plenty of easy wins for suppliers to tackle in the global packaging industry without driving up significant costs, starting with reducing the amount of empty packaging in the e-commerce channel and the use of plastic when transporting goods in the supply chain. We have found that there is a growing demand for the products in our 'Better Planet Packaging' portfolio which are sustainable alternatives for single-use plastic.

“As the shift to sustainable packaging intensifies, it is critical that businesses continue to invest in innovative solutions in order to respond to consumer demand, improve brand perception and deliver successful sustainability strategies,” added Berkenbosch.

The survey, which also examined consumers’ views on sustainability and how they are adapting to create a more sustainable future, found that 37% deem packaging design as important when making a purchasing decision. Further signaling consumers’ awareness of brands’ packaging, the research maintains that more than 50% of customers have purchased a product specifically because it had reusable or biodegradable packaging in the past six months.

The Sustainability and Profitability Survey also shows that eight in ten businesses view sustainability as a long-term investment rather than a cost, with consumers continuing to drive organisations’ attitudes towards sustainable practices.