In an interaction with Industry Outlook, Mr Mahesh Pratap Singh, Head – Sustainability and Social Responsibility, Flipkart, shares the road map for overcoming the persistent hurdles to India's broad deployment of sustainable packaging.
This year's COP-26 summit has pushed the world one step closer towards sustainability. How do you perceive India’s development towards sustainable packaging? What are the factors driving the growth of sustainable packaging in India?
COP26 has reiterated the commitment by nations in rising up to the challenge of climate change. The targets announced by India on emissions reduction, renewable energy and net-zero certainly are a guiding signal for every sector in the country to ramp up their corporate action plans. From a packaging standpoint, plastic waste continues to pose a threat to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and is one of the key environmental challenges faced today.
In line with this, the industry has also doubled down on the innovation quotient by developing robust eco-friendly packaging alternatives. Interestingly, the demand from customers, both end customers and institutional customers are also increasing significantly as they become aware of the ill effects of plastic packaging and the wider availability of equivalent eco-friendly packaging.
Transforming the waste management system and improving citizen awareness in the country, coupled with structural reforms will play a key role in supporting India’s mission towards becoming plastic-free. Programs including Swach Bharat, Plastic Hackathon campaigns, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) are also driving a positive change and impacting the growth of sustainable packaging in the market.
Right now, the cost of using sustainable packaging is understandably higher than conventional packaging. Hence, opting for sustainable packaging can be difficult for small business owners. What is your point of view in regards to this issue? How can this be resolved?
The growing awareness about non-plastic based packaging and the development of robust alternatives has led to an increasing demand for paper-based packaging from all stakeholders. In the coming days, the entry of new-age startups will help in achieving economies of scale, which will reduce the overall cost.
However, the cost of sustainable packaging should be viewed from a holistic lens considering value throughout the life cycle instead of the retail cost of the material. Key aspects like responsible sourcing, infrastructure cost, recyclability, reusability and the shift towards closed-loop systems should be taken into consideration while evaluating the lifetime cost of packaging which reduces costs in the longer term. This coupled with the evolving policy landscape and the growing economies of scale is helping bridge the gap between the cost of conventional packaging and sustainable packaging and increase adoption.
At Flipkart, we actively engage with our suppliers and sellers for understanding their challenges, co-creating solutions, work on capacity building for education and awareness to come up with scalable and cost-effective solutions best suited to the current scenario. Thorough research on packaging material designs and optimising systems to reduce wastage can go a long way in reducing costs.