In October 2017, the BBC broadcast the first episode of Blue Planet II. It was watched by over 14 million people. By the end of the season, a game-changing shift had occurred.
The response on Twitter, according to Resource.co, after the final episode aired, was “massive”. Searches of the term ‘plastic recycling’ rose by 55%. The Marine Conservation Society saw a 169% jump in website traffic. Searches for the WWF charity increased 51% after the first episode alone. The Plastic Oceans Foundation saw a 35% increase in web traffic.
Neilson notes that: “a whopping 81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. This passion for corporate social responsibility is shared across gender lines and generations. Millennials, Gen Z and Gen X are the most supportive, but their older counterparts aren’t far behind.”
The ‘Blue Planet Effect’
Whilst climate change is already on the public’s mind, the ‘Blue Planet Effect’ has boosted awareness of issues on the impact of waste packaging on the environment. Producers and consumers alike are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact, with fast-growing interest in sustainable packaging becoming a key part of this zeitgeist.
With sustainable packaging becoming an increasingly reported-on topic, we looked into the data on search demand around generic terms on the topic, analysed sentiment, and examined data on which industries are showing most interest.
Between June 2018 and June 2019, we observed a 42.8% increase in search demand across generic terms. These terms included: ‘eco-friendly packaging’, ‘biodegradable packaging’, ‘sustainable packaging’, ‘eco packaging’, ‘recyclable packaging’, ‘compostable packaging’, ‘environmentally friendly packaging’, ‘biodegradable food packaging’, ‘eco friendly packaging UK’ and ‘alternatives to plastic packaging’. The term ‘leaf packaging’ shot through the roof between February and June 2019 after news broke of Asian supermarkets switching to leaf packaging and ditching plastic.
A steadier, but more significant skyrocketing was observed on ‘Bioplastic’ and related terms (such as ‘Compostable plastic’) doubling in volume since 2016. Its growth dwarfs that of any other terms we studied, and shows no signs of plateauing any time soon.
Industries Championing Sustainability
Unsurprisingly, it is the food and drinks industry spurring news reports in the sustainable packaging area, with the beauty industry close behind. Fashion and pets also show high incidences of news reports, as do supermarkets and specific retailers such as Amazon. Social media conversation analysis also shows strong interest in sustainable packaging in the food and drinks industry, with fashion, beauty and the vegan market also generating discussion online. The past two years, in particular, have seen a significant rise in such conversations.
Clearly, the issue of how we treat the planet is not a temporary trend. Changes are being made, and the public is responding positively to them. At the start of 2018, the UK government pledged to reduce plastic packaging, whilst at the same time McDonalds announced plans to make all its packaging renewable by 2025. In response, supermarkets took up the baton as well. Altogether, these announcements caused a massive spike in search demand in January 2018.
Investors, at this point in time, would do well to put their money into companies which manufacture sustainable packaging, whilst those with portfolio companies in consumer retail should seriously consider how they can boost perception and exposure whilst getting in line with this shift. It is anticipated that a huge overhaul in the way we package products is close on the horizon, and those of us that lead the way will, as always, be those who see the biggest benefit.