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Sustainability In Global Tissue: Key Findings

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Euromonitor’s Sustainability in the Global Consumer Tissue Market report delves into how consumer lifestyles and purchase decisions are increasingly leaning towards more sustainable practices and how companies are meeting this increasing demand.

Given both consumer and government pressures to reduce environmental impact along with the increasing cost of production, some companies have already embraced circular business models and eco-friendly manufacturing practices and products. Sustainable supply chain, reduction in non-recyclable plastic packaging, and alternative fibres are among the strategies adopted by the global industry to respond to changing demands.

Toilet Roll SustainabilityBusiness with purpose trend intensifies following the pandemic

The rising importance of green trends reflects increasing consumer concerns over the environment and consumer willingness to have a positive impact through their actions. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of social sustainability, with a strong and sustained increase in the number of businesses linking the term to supporting local communities.

“Environmentally friendly”. What does it really mean?

“Environmentally friendly” was the sustainable claim most used by tissue companies in 2020, with a marked increase compared to 2019. But, what does “environmentally friendly” really mean for consumers? What should consumers understand when they see a product with this claim?

This claim encompasses one or more sustainable attributes that companies usually mention in a general, at times vague, way; an action or actions linked to the reduction of their impact on the environment, such as biodegradable, from recycled materials, or Forest Stewardship Council certification (FSC). There can be some lack of transparency here, which puts consumer confidence at risk, along with the potential for misleading marketing campaigns (also called “greenwashing”).

% SKUs - Sustainability and TissueSource: Euromonitor International

Understanding pricing challenges

Despite growing interest in promoting a sustainable recovery from the pandemic, stronger regulatory incentives, and growing consumer demand, “high cost of implementation and limited budget” is the main reason why tissue companies have not invested in sustainability, according to tissue industry professionals who responded to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Industry Sustainability Survey 2021.

In contrast, an increasing number of consumers are willing to pay more if the products feature a tangible attribute. Vague and generic claims are losing space in the purchase decisions linked to sustainability. Given this, it is important to understand that consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their daily activities, but industry growth cannot depend only on consumer willingness to pay more for certain products or services; it needs to implement innovation and marketing strategies that are transparent and resonate well, while also providing tangible benefits linked to the sustainability agenda. 

Focus on sustainable packaging

Increasingly, consumers have a clear idea about what they see as sustainable packaging. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey, recyclable and biodegradable packaging top the rank of packaging features perceived as sustainable.

Despite plastic packaging ranking last (viewed as least sustainable packaging by most consumers) most tissue packaging is still dominated by flexible plastic, due to its light weight and barrier properties. Despite increasing green activism and legislative pressures to adopt more sustainable packaging options, cost and operational limitations remain obstacles. However, as technology continues to evolve, the industry is increasingly eyeing more sustainable plastic options, including recyclable and recycled plastic, and even biodegradable packaging.

Sustainable Packaging Tissue FeaturesEuromonitor International Voice of Consumer: Consumer Lifestyle Survey, 2021

Innovation in alternative fibres

Wood pulp is one of the most critical commercial products worldwide due to its demand in the tissue paper industry. North America and Latin America together account for more than half of global production, reaching 97 million tonnes in 2020.

Undoubtedly, virgin wood pulp will continue to be important in the tissue market, and pulp and fibres made with wood from responsibly-managed forests are crucial to meet consumer demand and government stipulations. However, fast-renewable species are emerging as a sustainable wood pulp alternative:

  • Eucalyptus is highly efficient in retaining carbon dioxide. These trees do not need high irrigation or pesticides, and can grow in relatively poor and rocky soil, avoiding deforestation and erosion.
  • Bamboo remains an alternative fibre of choice for many eco-friendly brands. It is a crop with a low water requirement to generate biomass and can be harvested every year.
  • Wheat straw is being explored in Europe as an alternative fibre for large-scale tissue production, as this pulp is easier to source and cost efficient from a sustainability perspective.

For further insight, see the full report Sustainability in the Global Consumer Tissue Market, and if you are interested in learning more about sustainability and tissue and hygiene, please get in touch with Jorge Araya.

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