With society’s vested interest in, and commitment to sustainability rising over recent years, it’s now becoming increasingly obvious which companies are truly committed the cause.

Packaging waste is perhaps the most visible symptom of the disposable nature of modern society which touches all aspects of 21st century life, with the use of plastics most recently singled out for special focus as ‘enemy number one’. Packaging firms are now reacting to public concerns. In many ways, they have no choice.

While many are no doubt genuinely worthwhile advances that could make a difference, others may be strategic marketing opportunities that offer only a cosmetic gesture towards a more sustainable future.

Others, while being well-intentioned, may be the result of short-term thinking that could prove to be short-sighted. The world is watching, the bandwagon is rolling, and the temptation is to climb aboard, but it’s really important to avoid any knee-jerk reactions which could result in making matters worse for your reputation later on down the line.

For example, the current concerns over plastics are a case in point. It’s a fact that plastics pose a huge problem ecologically, however, the characteristics which make plastic so great as a material have ironically contributed to its very downfall. Many companies are scrambling to totally eradicate plastics from their supply chain in favour of more seemingly planet-friendly materials such as paper, or bioplastics.

But this is too simplistic an approach. Paper is a renewable and sustainable material, but its overuse too has negative implications on the planet, and it’s still questionable whether biodegradable and compostable plastics are a truly impact-free alternative.

With this in mind, it’s crucial to ensure that you have total transparency on the materials which you select for your cold chain packaging and are using the right materials for the right application.

Ask your suppliers to provide information about the materials they use, and how they behave from the beginning to the end of their life. Why have they chosen to use the materials they have? Are any ‘compostable’ claims, or recyclability certifications reliable and proven?

Transparency is essential for holding suppliers accountable and ensuring that they are genuinely committed to sustainability, so that you can too.

If it’s true that there is an element of ecological ‘showboating’ slipping into the packaging sector, it soon becomes evident as soon as you require compliance data!

Your packaging must perform. Make sure any sustainable packaging solutions are validated properly, and do what you need them to do. Solutions which fall short of performance requirements often require higher quantities of material or produce more waste – neither of which offer environmental efficiencies, regardless of the nature of the material.

It has long been believed that you must choose between sustainability and performance when it comes to cold chain packaging, however solutions such as Woolcool have been proven to fulfil both needs, without simply ‘papering’ over the cracks.