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Social responsibility of brands and the role of packaging design

Social responsibility of brands and the role of packaging design

More and more people today are thinking twice about which products they buy and which brands they choose. They are taking a closer look at the extent to which companies assume social responsibility and act with an eye to the future. The reasons for this change can be found quickly: Our environment increasingly relies on all of us to think differently – and the lockdowns during the Corona pandemic have given us the time to internalize this. Brands can benefit from the development by acting responsibly and expressing their philosophy, even or especially in packaging design.

Consumers are increasingly thinking and buying more sustainably

The Corona pandemic has changed a lot, even in the relationship between consumers and companies. Numerous consumers have used the intense lockdown periods to think about their lifestyles: “How sustainably do I actually live?” was a central question here. The answer to this may not have been very positive in some cases, as the market is showing clear changes in purchasing behavior.

In fact, people often no longer buy the first product that comes along, but one that convinces the consumer all around. In this context, the aspect of how the respective company deals with its social responsibility is now also of great importance. Although many people still rely on what they have known for a long time and are used to using, it can be observed that they now scrutinize and question their own opinion and, above all, the brand far more critically than they did a few years ago.

In other words, if consumers get the feeling that their “favorite brand” is not doing what they think it should be doing nowadays, they are quite prepared to open up to potentially better alternatives, i.e. to reorient themselves.

Corporate social responsibility is on the rise

For companies and brands, the trend toward assuming greater social responsibility is both a risk and an opportunity:

– Those that cling too stubbornly to their “old stories” for the sake of their own tradition and are unwilling to add a new chapter are likely to suffer setbacks in the form of lost customers.

– Those who face up to their social responsibility and integrate it honestly, cleverly and creatively into traditional concepts will not only increase the loyalty of existing customers, but also attract new ones.

Implementing social responsibility correctly – keyword authenticity

A company that uses part of the revenue from sales to plant thousands of trees is without question doing something good and assuming social responsibility. But: If the same company at the same time uses, for example, environmentally harmful packaging materials or has long supply chains, then the campaign with the trees is no longer worth much, because such contradictory actions are unprofessional on the one hand and destroy the crucial authenticity on the other.

Accordingly, every brand needs a holistic sustainability concept that is also lived in real life, otherwise the shot is guaranteed to backfire. “Invented” values that a company communicates to the outside world in order to present itself well and gain a competitive advantage, but in reality does not actively practice at all, will eventually come to light in our age of digital transparency, and sooner rather than later. In short, it hurts to pretend. Social responsibility only works if it is authentic.

How lived responsibility can be communicated through packaging design.

So the first step is to build up a coherent, practicable (!) concept. This does not have to be absolutely perfect right away – it is much more important for consumers to perceive the will of a brand and its efforts to implement it. Speaking of perceiving…

As soon as a brand has created its individual concept for social responsibility, it is of course a matter of communicating it in an expressive way. A good “channel” for this is packaging or packaging design. Why? Quite simply:

– because most people make purchases without first obtaining comprehensive information about each brand, and the packaging is therefore, in a sense, the first direct access to the brand in question

– because the packaging represents the brand and thus gives the consumer a literally tangible insight into the “personality” of the brand.

Accordingly, it is worthwhile for every company to communicate its individual interpretation of social responsibility via the packaging material and design.

The products of the ‘share’ brand are a good example. The hip brand uses sustainable packaging materials whenever possible and uses the packaging design to draw attention to its own initiatives – with slogans such as “Your purchase does good!” or “This pasta donates a meal”.


Consumers are increasingly shopping more responsibly. This forces brands to take on more social responsibility if they want to remain interesting to consumers. It is important to live these values authentically and to communicate them as expressively as possible – also and especially in packaging design.

Informative and creative communication of responsible action via packaging makes consumers aware and brands attractive.

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