Sustainable Packaging: Considerations for Homeopathic Manufacturers  

As our society places increasing emphasis on sustainability and environmental conservation, packaging has become a focal point for consumers, regulators, and brands alike. The homeopathic drug products industry is no exception. In fact, sustainability could be even more important for this sector because its "natural channel shoppers" are often more inclined to consider the environmental impact of shopping decisions. This article will offer a brief overview of the current packaging landscape for homeopathic manufacturers, key sustainable attributes of packaging, and legal and regulatory implications to consider.  

Competing Priorities for Pharmaceutical Packaging  

Sustainability is just one element of effective packaging today. Safety and hygiene, especially for the pharmaceutical sector, are critical. Branding, cost, and a litany of other factors may also play into this complex equation. 

A 2023 McKinsey survey highlights these competing priorities from the consumer perspective: “While respondents named hygiene, food safety, and shelf life as the most important characteristics for product packaging when making a purchase, 43 percent of consumers still say environmental impact is an extremely or very important packaging characteristic when making purchasing decisions.” 

Safety and effectiveness are paramount, but sustainability is gaining in prominence. In fact, the market for sustainable pharmaceutical packaging is projected to grow 15.4% annually to $146.3 billion by 2027. 

For homeopathic manufacturers, the challenge lies in striking a balance between materials that promote product safety and those that are sustainable. Again, homeopathy consumers who are often drawn to the natural aspects of products may be particularly attuned to the environmental impact of packaging materials. 

Sustainability Attributes & Dynamics 

Circularity/Renewability of Materials: To what extent can the materials used in packaging be recycled, reused, or otherwise diverted from landfilling? There is currently a big push to substitute petroleum-based materials for renewable, bio-based materials. When making decisions, brands and designers should consider data for recycling rates based on materials. Note that the recyclability of the material is just as important as having a market for the recycled product. Many groups are working to expand markets for recycled products.  

Other circular options include compostable packaging and reusable packaging. The latter is likely the least impactful for homeopathy today.  

Carbon Footprint: What is the total carbon footprint created by the packaging from manufacturing through end-of-life? This type of thinking offers context beyond renewability alone. For example, while some packaging materials may be more recyclable, others may cause more GHG emissions over their lifecycles. Weight is important too—i.e., the amount of weight the packaging contributes to trucking and distribution, which translates into gas emissions. 

It's also worth noting that as environmental, social, and governance data (ESG) reporting becomes more important to investors, emissions data will matter even more. Private companies would be affected, too; public companies may need data from their suppliers for their own reporting to investors. (This is called Scope 3 reporting and is gaining steam in some ESG thinking.)  

Leakage Into the Environment: What processes and/or materials used in packaging may harm the natural environment or pose risks to public health? Images of sea turtles caught in plastic beverage rings or hermit crabs using caps for shells have become ubiquitous, and according to the McKinsey study cited above, ocean litter has emerged as the key issue for consumers. Chemistry such as PFAS and phthalates sometimes used in packaging are also under scrutiny for their potential impact on the environment and, in some cases, human health.  

Regulatory Considerations   

As homeopathic manufacturers explore the implementation of sustainable packaging solutions, they should maintain some familiarity with concurrent regulatory efforts. For example, some states are banning single-use packaging and mandating certain levels of recycled content in packaging (see California SB 54). Brands should also review the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides for environmental marketing and advertising, especially when considering claims about sustainability or using terms like “recyclable.” (Note that the Green Guides are guidance or best practice, not laws.) We expect FTC to update the Green Guides this year. 

Another transformation in the regulatory arena is extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation for packaging. These laws, which have gained increasing popularity over the past years, shift the cost of end-of-life management of packaging back onto the producers that introduce it into the marketplace. Currently California, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon have passed such bills and are moving toward implementation. While there are still many details to be hammered out, it appears that brand owners will likely pay into producer responsibility organizations (PROs), which will then use those funds to improve recycling markets and infrastructure.  

In navigating the complex landscape of sustainable packaging, homeopathic manufacturers find themselves at the intersection of sustainability, safety, and practical effectiveness. While it may take some time to balance these aspects, such efforts can set manufacturers on a path toward environmental responsibility and increased resonance with consumers.