Denomination sustainability blog series

Number 5: Brand, packaging and the road to sustainability

Brand identity and packaging design are powerful tools. They can influence the way people look at certain issues. They can encourage us to alter our behaviour and make better choices. They can help make the world a better place. 

Right now, there’s a lot of confusion around the issue of sustainability. Communication channels the world over are clogged up with misleading or false environmental claims (aka ‘greenwashing’) – it’s difficult to know what to accept as the truth, and what to dismiss.


We live in a world where fossil fuel companies spend millions on ad campaigns to persuade us that they’re all about low-carbon initiatives when, in fact, most of their investment is in oil and gas. Where virtue-signalling supermarkets swap plastic bags for ‘reusable’ paper versions that, on closer inspection, use more energy to produce. And where trusted car companies cheat emissions tests.


So, as a brand owner there’s a big job to do to cut through the din and convince people that you’re legitimate and worth supporting. And we’re not only talking about target consumers. Increasingly, investors, stakeholders and employees are insisting that companies pass muster, too. A Morgan Stanley poll found that 75% of investors cared about sustainable investing, and 71% believe companies that focus on ESG (environment, social, governance) goals will actually earn better returns. 


Label makers


As well as sourcing sustainable raw materials and ensuring you’re on top of innovations in new products and delivery mechanisms, a core part of our role is to ensure that your messaging is communicated in the right way to the right people.


In the drinks sector, your packaging is your most important communication device. People choose wines, beers and spirits for all kinds of reasons, many of which are subconscious. We’re not always able to articulate why we make the choices we do, but the semiotics of the packaging will certainly have played a part. 


Take Fourth Wave Wine Partners’ phenomenally successful sustainable wine brand Tread Softly. On the front label the branding is deliberately small. Not only does this encourage consumers to lean in and look, but it also reflects the low-impact nature of the brand name and creates a quietly potent shelf presence. The surprise – and delight – is the generous illustrative capsule and back label. Messaging on the back outlines carbon-offsetting and tree-planting initiatives, but it’s the gently powerful look and feel that confirm the brand’s eco credentials and entices those consumers looking to make more sustainable choices.


Telling stories


Storytelling, especially in drinks marketing, is intrinsic to creating a brand that people engage with emotionally. You don’t always have to tell it with words, but every great packaging strategy originates from a strong, authentic brand story. That’s what drives believable creative ideas.


As brand and packaging experts with sustainability at the heart of our operations, we understand that there’s an opportunity to create positivity around a brand, and to persuade potential consumers of your authenticity in a subtle but powerful way. 


The products we buy say something about who we are and what we believe. Most people want to make the right choices when it comes to sustainability, so a significant role for designers like us is to tell your story the right way so that they can do just that and see you as the brand that empowers them to make those choices.


With research by YouGov indicating that 62% of food and drink consumers make purchase decisions based on brands’ eco-credentials – and 21% actively avoid brands that don’t respond to environmental concerns – communicating your sustainability agenda is a priority and an essential part of your eco journey.