20 sustainable packaging innovations

A list of innovative packaging solutions designed to reduce environmental impact and meet customer demand for sustainable, eco-friendly options.

We help clients come up with new products, services, and processes, and recently, we’ve noticed an increased focus on sustainability innovations. While it would be lovely to claim that this shift towards social responsibility is entirely noble, the fact of the matter is that customers want eco-friendly products.

A 2018 Nielsen study conducted in the US found that products boasting sustainability claims outsell those that don’t. While the CGS 2019 US Customer Sustainability Survey saw two-thirds of respondents confirm that they consider environmental impact when making purchasing decisions and are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products.

The trouble is that there aren’t enough sustainable options available to meet demand. So what’s the hold-up? For one thing, though lots of brands claim to have recyclable packaging (despite the fact that in certain areas, the facilities to process so-called ‘recyclable’ materials simply don’t exist), they’re having trouble producing recycled packaging. This comes down not only to the low availability of top-notch recycled plastic due to the purportedly reduced quality of recycled resin (eco-responsible packaging is tricky to engineer, and different types of plastics can’t be recycled as one) but also due to concerns over food safety.

Overcoming these problems is not impossible. As this list of sustainable packaging developments proves, it just requires a bit of innovation. These companies are coming up with bioplastics and plastic-alternatives, behavior-change initiatives, re-engineered boxes, circular production systems, and more. Copy ideas for your own industry using our analogy thinking tool.

Navigate via the different types of innovation

We’ve split the list up into the different types of innovation to enable you to find your way easily. 


Profit Model

Henkel & The Plastic Bank


While consumers often have good intentions, they simply don’t have access to the right recycling infrastructure – this is particularly a problem in disadvantaged communities. The Plastic Bank is trying to overcome this barrier and incentivize behavior change by monetizing plastic waste. They’ve set up locations where people can return plastic in exchange for tokens (securely received via an IBM-enabled blockchain system) that they can use to buy food, water, phone credits, and more. This creates new economic opportunities in the world’s most disadvantaged communities, they say. This Social Plastic is then sold to socially conscious brands like Henkel. The company’s laundry, home, and beauty care products are to be made from 100% recycled materials - 50% of which will be Social Plastic.



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Product performance



Customer engagement


Could these innovations work for you?

Download our free analogy thinking tool to identify the best features from other solutions and apply them to your business.

Thanks for reading!

I’m Alexandra Sutton, copywriter and content manager at Board of Innovation. Want to see more articles like this? Coming right up! Subscribe to our newsletter below to receive freshly packaged content in your inbox.

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