New Initiative to Educate Consumers About Paper and Sustainability

Sustainability is playing an increasingly larger role in the lives of young consumers, particularly among Millennials (born 1981-1996) and Generation Z (born 1997 and after). This trend is expected to continue as Gen Z consumers enter the workforce and start setting up their own households.

As a result, the Paper and Packaging Board’s “How Life Unfolds” Campaign® is launching a new sustainability-focused effort to more appealing to young consumers.

“As our consumer audience begins to age up, we need to keep reaching out to younger generations with important sustainability messaging,” explains Mary Anne Hansan, president of the Paper and Packaging Board. “They are worried about the environment, have heard stories about recycling not being worthwhile and have misperceptions about the health of U.S. forests. That’s why we’ve created a campaign set to reach a younger audience with content that is both entertaining and educational.”

The new effort is based in part on findings from The Hartman Group’s “Sustainability 2019: Beyond Business as Usual” study of American consumers aged 18-73. Researchers found that sustainability is “a cultural value and defining concern for today’s consumer,” and that “consumers increasingly hold companies and governments responsible for sustainability than individuals,” even as they adjust their own behaviors to lessen their personal environmental footprint.

In fact, 51 percent of respondents said that the environment is the main reason they purchase sustainable or socially responsible products. That’s up 19 percentage points from 2017.

Among the survey respondents, young consumers were more likely than older consumers to change their lifestyle to live in a more environmentally sustainable way, even as they expect corporations and governments to do a better job of addressing large-scale issues of waste, pollution and climate change.

The survey showed that young consumers are more likely to:
*Choose products with package seals and certifications claiming sustainability
*Shop with sustainability, social issues or labor practices in mind
*Align with brands that reduce air/water pollution, maintain natural habitats, reduce corporate impact and practice community involvement
*Avoid products with excessive packaging
*Select products with recyclable or biodegradable packaging or packaging made with recycled content
*Choose sustainable products even if it means spending a bit more money

But despite a desire to shop sustainably, only 15 percent of respondents felt they could identify a sustainable company, and just 22 percent thought they could identify a sustainable product. In addition, a whopping 84 percent of respondents said they approach manufacturers’ sustainability claims with some degree of skepticism.

When corporate claims aren’t enough, where can consumers turn for reliable information about a company’s environmental commitment and sustainability record? Gen Z and Millennial consumers depend on social media and online sources, and they rely on experts, journalists and third-party organizations to provide trusted information about company policies and actions.
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