Bringing sustainability back to the front burner

The year of living carefully


In the past year of living carefully in the shadow of Covid-19, the packaging industry has been one of the fortunate exceptions in the economy with continued growth and capacity building. The suppliers of film, board, liner, or labelstock or those of gravure, label and offset presses and converting equipment for flexibles, corrugated, and carton packaging have done well. The packaging printing and converting suppliers have delivered on notable projects that were in the pipeline. The filling and sealing segments have also added considerable capacity.

The aggressive capacity building in the Indian packaging industry continues with belief renewed by the pandemic in both the necessity of Indian packaging and its still considerable headroom for growth. With plans made and, in many cases, equipment with long lead times on order, a great deal of capacity building is in progress for the coming two years. However, the question being asked – even by sellers of equipment, technology, and raw materials, is whether we have sidelined packaging sustainability. This subject was on the front burner at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.

In the last year, many expert commentators have pointed out that there is the danger of arriving at the new normal by taking the ‘Covid bypass.’ Will the economic recovery and the packaging industry’s prosperity overlook the tough questions of waste collection, sorting at source, and recycling packaging in India? Will sustainability remain merely lip service and greenwashing while each material and segment champions its virtuous green credentials to the detriment of others?

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that it is one of a series of recurring events in which we have perhaps irreparably damaged our natural world. Consumers are aware of the crisis widely and are demanding hygiene and safety in products and sustainability, wiser use of finite resources, and recyclable and recycled packaging.

In recent surveys, a majority of consumers not only believe that improving food safety is the responsibility of manufacturers, they see it as the number one issue that companies need to tackle now and in the future. They are no longer satisfied with the possibility, and they are demanding hygienic and sustainable packaging with recycled content now.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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