Packaging Innovation
March 3, 2014

How to reconcile ‘sustainable’ with ‘luxury’ packaging

Sustainable’ and ‘luxury’ are two adjectives not often used in each other’s presence. This definitely holds true for packaging design, with luxury items lusciously contained by metallized glass, plastic or many other types of material – though beautiful, eco-friendly they are not. One of many issues at play here is brand image – consumers of luxury goods simply expect proper packaging and might not really care all that much about environmental concerns. Yet does that mean we simply have to accept the fact that ‘responsible luxury’ will forever be an illusion?

The challenges of sustainable luxury packaging

sustainable luxury packagingOver the past decades, consumers have generally become more aware of environmental issues and tend to act upon this awareness in the supermarket. When offered a choice between products, most consumers pick the most eco-friendly item – that is, if it’s not overpriced. This holds true for all product categories, except one: luxury items.

People buying luxury goods – such as Champagne, confection, perfume, etc. – expect packaging to add to the overall feel of luxury. Prestige brands and their customers are often more concerned about the look rather than the eco-friendliness of the packaging. Recyclable materials, such as paperboard, are therefore out of the question. Or are they?

Careful marketing is required for sustainable luxury packaging

Arguing that it’s impossible to design sustainable luxury packaging simply isn’t true. There are brands that have made the switch and are doing fine just now. Fashion brand Gucci, for instance, launched 100 percent recyclable packaging back in 2010, cutting down on excess packaging, and other brands have followed.

Arguably, not every brand can make this transition with little effort. Take cosmetics, for instance. While producing cosmetics products in metal tins, paperboard cartons or thin glass jars may be good for the environment – and low-cost! – marketing to an industry centered around image requires careful handling. Manufacturers need to provide luxury packaging companies with packaging that looks as though it is contributing to the often enormous suggested retail price of the product, yet also has some environmental benefits.

Inspired by: Smithers Pira