14 Jul 2022 --- Poland-based scale-up Packhelp is helping companies source customized packaging designs through its e-commerce site. The initiative’s founders recently began incorporating environmental sustainability labeling in collaboration with consultancy firm Inspired, allowing customers to provide transparency on the footprint of their products.
After launching in 2015, Packhelp says it attracted more than 53,000 customers in over 30 countries, primarily based in Europe, and last year announced a €40 million (around US$45.6 million) series B round to fuel its next phase of growth, following a €10 million series A round in 2019.
Packhelp’s minimum order is just 30 boxes, meaning it can serve microbrands like Etsy creators or e-commerce platform sellers as they scale, in addition to larger enterprises such as on-demand food delivery giants like Uber Eats.
Aleksandra Owczarek, Packhelp’s public relations manager, tells PackagingInsights that the business is looking to “disrupt the whole packaging industry by bringing in new standards and engaging different players along on the journey.”
“If done right, we will become not only an important element of the commerce ecosystem but also a potential leader of something much bigger – a world-changing shift to sustainable solutions. By reshaping our process and introducing new products and services, we can make it easier for brands and suppliers to transition toward more environmentally friendly packaging,” continues CEO
The idea of measuring the carbon footprint of Packhelp’s best-selling products came to life in July 2021. Packhelp partnered with Inspired to conduct in-depth carbon and water footprint calculations of its products, paving the way for consumers to make fully conscious choices. The company also asked suppliers to help them in this pursuit by providing data.
The biggest challenge of this project was getting to know the specifics of each vendor’s process, explains Owczarek. Initially, Packhelp launched a study based on a life cycle analysis of thirteen different packaging solutions, broken down into methods depending on the route of transport and variants of each product.
The company then had to delve deep into the supplier’s sourcing, supply chain and transportation of each product. All in all, 300 different options were analyzed.
“Thanks to the data gathering process, our suppliers also took their first steps when it comes to tracing their footprint and learned the parameters that they should take into consideration like where do they take the material from for each box, how are they transported, what distance do they go, how much energy is used during cutting and printing (production processes), and then how it’s sent to the customer,” explains Agnieszka Zych, senior production specialist.
The starting point of the calculation for this particular research was the carbon emission of a metric ton of cardboard, plastic or any other material. This process means that each product variant had to be weighed before it was possible to tally up its impact, and the weight of a package depends on its size, raw material and thickness.
Carbon dioxide emissions were then calculated based on emission factors taken from the DEFRA base for primary and secondary raw materials, which are as follows: 821.23 kg equivalent CO2 per 1000kg and 718.54 kg equivalent CO2 per 1000 kg.
Building consumer awareness
The goal of featuring information on the carbon and water footprint calculations is also to build carbon awareness among customers. The challenge is to create a future-proof business that will answer the needs of current and future generations of consumers.
“We have noticed many companies building their carbon neutrality development strategies. However, without taking the product’s whole life-cycle and therefore engaging supply chain agents in the calculations, the change is not about to come anytime soon,” says Zuzanna Mazurek, the company’s head of sustainability.
“We want to contribute to building cross-industry carbon awareness, and the value proposition of such a strategy cannot be created without taking numerical data into account.”
Another initiative introduced by the start-up is adding a revolutionary feature in its Online Creator – a tool to personalize packaging without specific design knowledge. As of June, any company can add the FSC certificate directly to a packaging design, straight from the Online Creator.
“In order to sell FSC-certified personalized products at Packhelp, we had to ensure that all participants in the supply chain were also FSC-certified: from the paper mill, the packaging manufacturer, to the printing house, and finally to Packhelp. This is just one more example of how we are committed to providing sustainable packaging for every business,” explains Mazurek.
By Louis Gore-Langton
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