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Can Packaging Boost Sales as Companies Strive for Sustainability?

This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School's MBA program. You can follow along here.

By Lara Perlof

On April 5, Oliver Campbell, Dell Computers Procurement Director, wrote in his blog that Dell is beginning to implement the usage of mushroom based packaging. The new packaging was created by Ecovative Design. Dell is the first technology company to start pilot shipments, and will be testing the packaging on its PowerEdge R710 servers.

Ecovative Design purports the mushroom packaging reduces solid waste and fossil fuel consumption. This is achieved as the packaging is made of compostable material, and takes one-tenth the energy to produce in comparison to styrofoam.
Packaging is a large contributor to waste and fossil fuel usage. For these reasons, packaging is a big concern for companies in addressing sustainability issues, whether it is packaging for their own products or packaging of the products they purchase to conduct business. Thus, this new mushroom packaging is important to make note of, as it is a sustainable form of packaging using agricultural waste that can then be composted.

It is well known and evidenced that fortune 1000 companies are seeking ways to improve the sustainability of their operations across their entire value chain, from energy usage, water usage, and waste to name a few. Companies choosing to purchase Dell servers or other Dell products using this sustainable mushroom based packaging are improving their operational effects on the environment, and thus their image. Not only will they be contributing less to land fill waste, but indirectly they will be supporting the reduction of fossil fuel usage.

However, does the marketing of this sustainable packaging overshadow the reality of the compostability of this product and the broader sustainable issues related to technology products? Will purchasing departments think about whether composting is available in the municipality they have Dell products shipped to? If the location does not have composting, then the purchasing decision is not reducing waste. Will the marketing of Dell products using this packaging overshadow this thought process? Additionally, will this sustainable packaging sway business consumers to Dell products and blind them from looking at some of the broader issues related to technology products such as energy efficiency, and improved business processes?

There is no doubt that this new mushroom based packaging is a big step in the right direction towards sustainability, and has a positive impact along a company’s value chain. However, Dell’s business to business consumers can not forget to look at the broader picture when making purchasing decisions to ensure the marketing of the sustainability of a product is a) applicable in its environment, and b) does not negate the holistic issues to be addressed to improve operations.

I pose this question: Do you think Dell will be able to increase sales to business consumers through the marketing of this new packaging?

Video on how Ecovative’s mushroom based package is produced:

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