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The Next Economy
New Research Explores Whether Consumers Appreciate Disruptive Innovation in Sustainable Packaging

Novelis, a global leader in rolled aluminum products, is in the process of shifting its entire business model from a traditional linear model to a closed-loop or circular model. The company is embracing an entirely new way of thinking and operating in order to radically transform itself — and, in the process, reap the brand value associated with being a clear leader on that front in its industry.

In 2013, Novelis introduced evercan™, the first independently certified, high-recycled-content (currently 90 percent, with a goal of 100 percent) aluminum beverage can sheet, while committing to making it available at no extra cost.

In March, Forum for the Future reviewed existing literature exploring consumer attitudes regarding corporate responses to sustainability issues, particularly around packaging and recycled content. Emerging hypotheses on consumer attitudes towards the evercan concept were then tested in four focus groups with consumers in the UK. The groups were split by age and gender, and participants had been pre-screened to determine that they don’t have extreme attitudes to recycling and that they consume at least 4 canned beverages per week.

There is a clear sense that brands that don’t take advantage of new innovations in packaging sustainability risk being viewed as laggards or followers in the eyes of consumers. Experts think that sustainable packaging will become a ‘hygiene’ factor for companies, which is likely to be fueled by increased consumer demand for brand transparency and higher expectations for the sustainability of products.

Brand adoption of disruptive innovations can be a sticking point when it comes to attempts to move towards a circular economy. We need visionary, pioneering businesses to take a first step and lead their respective industries. Consumers increasingly see packaging recycling as a shared responsibility and brands are facing a valuable opportunity to lead by being proactive and providing the best technologies available.

Summary of Key Findings

In brief, sustainable packaging can add brand value by:

  • Driving brand preference — People want to buy products and services with a positive environmental and social impact, with sustainable packaging one of people’s top few wishes.
  • Supporting brand protection — Waste features among people’s top concerns for companies to tackle, and consumers are prepared to boycott brands that they consider to be acting irresponsibly.
  • Providing an opportunity for leadership — People look to brands to help to solve environmental challenges, and companies could reap benefits by setting ambitious sustainability targets and acting on them as fast as possible.
  • Supporting brand resilience in the future — Higher consumer awareness, expectations of brands’ environmental and social impacts, and new industry standards, mean that brands need to act today on sustainability issues to be resilient in the long term.

More granular results can be found in the full report. As a next step, Novelis and Forum for the Future will explore what these research findings mean in terms of picking a specific path to taking Novelis’ disruptive innovation in sustainable packaging to scale.

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