Sustainability by design

Flor Peña Herron, Avery Dennison’s Sr. Sustainability & Circular Economy Manager EMENA, lifts the lid on the complexities of designing for sustainability, from why labels as an afterthought can undo hard fought sustainability wins to how EcoDesign can help not only the recyclability but also prevent spoilage, reduce waste and improve overall sustainability outcomes.


Brands rely on labels to ensure their brand identity, product integrity and sustainability targets are upheld. The humble label can support waste reduction, provide product origin information, give usage instructions, best before dates, allergens and also provide clear guidance on how to dispose of the packaging. It’s the unsung hero of the communications spectrum.

For some industries, the label is vital. Skincare and household goods often contain a delicate balance of substances that, without due care and caution, can do considerable harm. The label’s function in this instance is beyond an attractive embellishment, but an essential requirement. 

What we call a label comes in many different forms. It can be anywhere from 5-50% of the overall package, it can be a wrap-around, it can be made from grapes, it can wash off at home or stay in place until the recycling process, it can be a monomaterial,  it can contain a plethora of digital capabilities. But where they all share a common ground is in the complexity around how they’re applied and what they’re applied to and where they will be distributed for sale.



This is where EcoDesign plays a big role.

The people creating the design - the look and feel - need to go into that process fully armed with a clear understanding of what material and application options are available and what implications each has in combination with both the product and the packaging.



The design, the printing, the application, the market in which it will be sold all need to be taken into account when designing holistic packaging. The latter point being significant as it’s necessary to understand the recycling streams available in the country of sale in order to design for the specific requirements of their available systems and processes.

This approach delivers the best design, look and feel as well as fulfilling the requirements of function and recyclability. It asks the question “what is the final intention?” Is it to refill? Is it to reuse? Or is it to recycle? What is it we want to achieve as an outcome? It’s also necessary to understand the consumer role in the process. Is the role they have to play in the desired disposal of the waste product a reasonable expectation? If so, have we informed them appropriately of the steps they need to take?



In previous years, there’s been an expectation that people clean certain packaging before disposing of it yet now that’s not necessarily the case. Someone somewhere along the way realized that to clean the water from millions of households was more complex that removing the chemicals in the recycling process itself. So again, understanding the sustainability goals will inform the design process, the material choices and the information to the consumer.

As more and more brand owners seek to make legitimate green claims, they also need to consider the cost implications of putting unsustainable materials into the market. True sustainability - where the entirety of the package/label is recyclable - is a clear brand differentiator. If the label choice is made without consideration, the decisions could be costly, both to the bottom line and the planet.

Learn more about sustainable labels

Discover our "Small. Yet Significant." guide to navigating sustainable labeling for HPC brands to learn how you can incorporate material choices, EcoDesign best practices and innovation into your packaging decisions.

For further information on how you can adopt a holistic approach to EcoDesign, download our “Small. Yet Significant.” guide to navigating sustainable labeling for your home and personal care brands.