10 ways brands are adding sustainability to products and packaging

Just in time for Earth Day, here's a look at new eco-conscious initiatives from brands and retailers in beauty products, sporting goods and toys.

a multicolored running shoe

This running shoe is low-carbon. (Image courtesy of Adidas)

With Earth Day upon us, it’s a time for everyone to consider how their actions have an impact on our planet.

It's clear the consumer goods industry is taking this to heart. Against the backdrop of sustainability goals to mitigate climate change and rising demand from shoppers for eco-conscious strategies, a series of new initiatives unveiled over the last month show that brands and retailers are making process changes and adding new materials as they produce and deliver products.

Below is a look at the Earth Day launches that stood out this spring. For those wondering where to start, take note that, often, these new initiatives happen through partnerships.

LVMH’s sustainable PET partnership

Inside a Dior store. (Photo via Flickr user Alessandra Grochko, used under a Creative Commons license)

A new partnership between one of luxury’s biggest names and a materials company is aiming to produce sustainable packaging for perfumes and cosmetics.

LVMH Beauty, a division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, announced a multi-year agreement on April 19 to purchase sustainable PET from Sacramento, California-based Origin Materials. PET is a plastic, and is typically made from petroleum. The PET from Origin Materials is made from sustainable wood residues, which capture carbon. It is also recyclable.

LVMH plans to use the PET to develop packaging materials for brands including Givenchy, Christian Dior and Guerlain, among others. It’s one way LVMH is working to meet a commitment to make packaging that contains no plastic derived from virgin fossil resources.

“Origin’s bioplastic technologies are playing a crucial role in helping LVMH achieve our sustainability targets without any compromise on quality. LVMH Beauty is happy to collaborate with Origin, supporting innovative technologies,” said Claude Martinez, Executive President & Managing Director, in a statement.

L.O.L. Surprise shows Earth Love

two dolls next to an LOL ball

Earth Love from L.O.L. Surprise (via Earth Love)

Recognizable packaging was key to toy company MGA Entertainment as it grew L.O.L. Surprise dolls. Unboxing a doll from a spherical container proved to be a delightful part of the experience.

Now, the company is placing the packaging at the center of its sustainability efforts.

This month, it announced that it will begin to use bamboo, wood, sugar cane and other natural materials in the spheres, instead of plastic. The goal is to transition 65% of the plastic balls to new packaging by fall 2022. That means 45 million dolls will be produced using the sustainable materials this year.

Inside the first sustainable spheres will be two new characters that are debuting to mark the occasion. The Earth Love collection, available at Walmart, will feature LEarthy B.B. and Grow Grrrl, both of whom come complete with gardening accessories.

The company is also continuing a partnership with TerraCycle for recycling.

"MGA is committed to sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives, and we are proud to take this monumental step with our new L.O.L. Surprise! Earth Love toys, with many more to come," said MGA Entertainment Founder and CEO Isaac Larian, in a statement.

Low-carbon running shoes from Adidas and Allbirds

shoes on 2 feet

(Image via Adidas)

One big question about sustainable materials is whether they can scale as a component of mass-produced goods.

With a recent drop of low-carbon running shoes, footwear brand Allbirds and apparel company Adidas set out to prove that they can.

The Adizero x Allbirds 2.94 kg CO2e has sustainability cred, as the only running shoe to go below 3.0 kg CO2e. The measure CO2e describes the greenhouse gas-equivalent of material in a unit of product. To achieve this measure, the shoes are made using sugarcane content, recycled rubber, recycled polyester and natural lyocell. Plus, the brands employed a design method that reduces scrap on certain parts of the shoe.

This month, the companies made more of the shoes available in four color schemes (produced using no dye).

To get to scale, the brands made the decision to work together.

“Climate change presents a formidable challenge, but the success of this project is an example of how two teams can work together to create a shoe fit for performance and the planet,” said Hana Kajimura, head of sustainability at Allbirds, in a statement. “Our overarching ambition with this shoe is to inspire others to open up their development processes and cooperate with others to create the most carbon efficient designs possible.”

Casio’s environmentally-friendly watch

A Casio watch is a long-term favorite for shoppers who want to keep thing simple, or do some quick calculations. With a new timepiece, the brand is factoring in sustainable materials.

The PRW-61is the latest release in the PRO TREK series, and it's made from biomass plastics. It’s the first item from Casio to use these materials, TWICE reported.

The watch has features for solar charging, radio reception and sensors including a thermometer and compass. So it’s fitting that it is close to the Earth in form, as well as function.

Mattel’s carbon-netural toys

matchbox cars next to a recycling truck

Matchbox is going green (Image courtesy of Mattel)

You can now own a matchbox Tesla roadster.

That’s cool enough. Now add in that it’s made from 99% recycled materials, and is carbon neutral.

The miniature Tesla is among a number of items Mattel is rolling out as part of an environmentally-friendly line this year.

Elsewhere in its catalogue, a new line of Mega Bloks is the first-ever to be certified carbon neutral, the brand says.

The toys in the Green Town line are made from plant-based materials and bio-circular plastics. MEGA achieved the certification in part by purchasing carbon offsets from the Darkwood Forests Conservation project in Canada. Packaging for the toys is also 100% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper or paperboard.

“These new products from MEGA and Matchbox demonstrate our commitment to our 2030 goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials in all our products and packaging and to create a more sustainable future for the next generation,” said Pamela Gill-Alabaster, Head of Global Sustainability at Mattel, in a statement.

Nivea Men Climate Care Moisturizer

A bottle of moisturizer

Nivea Men Climate Care Moisturizer (Image via Beiersdorf)

Beiersdorf set out to pioneer carbon dioxide recycling in the making of its skincare products. Now, its first product using the environmentally-minded approach is launching.

To produce the forthcoming Climate Care Moisturizer from Nivea Men, the company used carbon capture and utilization technology to produce ethanol, which is present in many cosmetics. Through this process, carbon dioxide is collected at locations like industrial chimneys, then diverted to a bioreactor, where it is then fermented and processed.

The brand used this approach to create a moisturizer that is 14% ethanol. The company adds that the formula is 100% free of microplastics, silicones, mineral oils, and PEG or PEG derivatives, and manufactured using electricity from 100% renewable sources.

The initial launch of the product is set for June in Germany, with a limited quantity available through ecommerce and drugstores.

Shiseido’s sustainable ecommerce packaging

(Image via Shiseido)

Sustainability efforts that focus on ecommerce packaging can have a big impact, given their scale.

Here’s one example of such a move this month: Ecommerce shoppers who buy from the Japan-headquartered beauty brand Shiseido can now choose from eco-friendly packaging options.

According to Global Cosmetics News, the offerings include a clear, “green” plastic bag made from Polyvinyl Alcohol, and honeycomb wrap and stuffing paper to replace bubble wrap.

Boots kicks plastic wet wipes

Boots biodegradable wipes

Boots wet wipes (Courtesy photo)

Sustainability doesn’t always mean releasing something new. Retailers can also make a statement with what they decide not to sell.

This month, the UK drugstore retailer Boots said it would stop selling plastic wet wipes by the end of the year, and replace them with plant-based alternatives.

This is a decision that covers a big portion of the market. The company said it sold over 800 million wet wipes online and in stores last year, representing 15% of wet wipe sales in the UK.

Kroger and Loop’s circular packaging partnership

A Kroger Marketplace (www.flickr.com)

The frequency of grocery shopping makes it a prime area to reduce single-use packaging. That’s why reusable bags have become a familiar part of the in-store experience.

Kroger is taking things a step further by introducing reusable packaging for its products. Through a partnership with Loop, the grocer introduced reusable packaging in products at Fred Meyer stores in Oregon earlier this year. Now, it's expanding the initiative.

There are a few different parts of the program: Loop recovers and sanitizes packaging for recirculation, while it looks to manufacturers who introduce products that reuse sustainable packaging.

Working through both its private label brands and recognizable CPG names, the program is one example of how grocery stores can play an influential role in promoting sustainability.

If the SKU fits...

The outside of a Dick's Sporting Goods store.

Dick's Sporting Goods. (www.flickr.com)

When it comes to ecommerce orders, one way to reduce waste is by providing a better fit of product to package.

Through a partnership with Packsize, top sporting goods retailer Dick’s is looking to help make this a reality.

Packsize has created customized corrugated packaging that is fitted to the 2,000+ SKUs shipped by Dick’s.

The companies said in March that it resulted in a 26% reduction in corrugated materials used by Dick's.

"We recognize that our athletes want their products in a timely fashion – and they want us to create less waste with more efficient packaging,” George Giacobbe, senior vice president for supply chain at DICK'S Sporting Goods, said in a statement.

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