Story | 02/04/2022 08:20:37 | 6 min Read time

Pentawards champion future of sustainable packaging

Asa Butcher

Editor, Spoon Agency

One of the most prestigious competitions for global packaging design widened its sustainability category last year. As it continues to champion excellence, is the future of packaging in safe hands?

The future of packaging sustainability is in safe hands if the winners and nominees of the UK-based Pentawards are the benchmark. Now in its 16th year, the renowned competition for global packaging design remains committed to recognising excellence and even unveiled a wider Sustainable Design category last year.

Since its launch, the contest has received more than 20,000 entries from over 64 countries, annually showcasing many of the world's most innovative, inspiring and powerful packaging designs. The expansion of its categories underlines the importance of sustainability and highlights that this is not just a passing trend.

Separating the winners from the losers

“For the last few years, we have had a Sustainable Design sub-category. Last year, we launched a wider Sustainable Design category with six sub-categories because we recognise the importance of supporting and encouraging more sustainable packaging across the industry. What is important to our community and the industry is important to us,” says Adam Ryan, Head of the Pentawards.

The sub-categories included beverages, health and beauty, branding and consumer, food, leisure and luxury, and saw five sustainability experts from across the packaging and branding industries to judge them. Robert Taylor, Sustainability Director at UPM Raflatac, was a member of the inaugural Sustainable Design Jury and found the experience highly informative. In fact, he is returning to judge again this year.

“We’re in the labelling business, so I mostly speak to customers who are printers or the brands themselves. Personally, it was interesting to have the chance to get in touch with the designers and understand their thinking and how they’re designing sustainable packaging. I was impressed by their knowledge of sustainability and by the sheer number of different end-use applications,” he adds.

When judging, Taylor looks at the design’s whole lifecycle and how it addresses the four Rs: reduce renew, recycle and reuse: “Critically, I always look for verification of any claims or data. This is what separates the winners from the losers because you can clearly see those who have gone down the verification route; they know what they are talking about and are focused on the right things.”

One of Taylor’s fondest moments last year was robustly debating the winners with his fellow judges: “I look at a package purely from a performance perspective, but they brought in questions like: how do they build that performance into the design? How do they communicate the branding and sustainability elements? Often you don't see or feel it, but then there are those who really make it a feature.”


OceanIQ is a new line of Greek vegan home-care detergents.
Photo credit – Pentawards/2Yolk

Creating a sustainable ‘Silicon Valley’

The Sustainable Design Jury judge the entries according to sustainability of design, creativity and innovation, as well as brand and emotional connection. For Ryan, what’s exciting to see is how these entries seamlessly bring together packaging, product, beautiful brand design, and a call to action in a way that demonstrates a genuine commitment to using sustainability. 

One notable example was OceanIQ from the Greek design agency 2Yolk, which won the 2021 Platinum award in the Sustainable Design category. “It is a new line of vegan home-care detergents created for a supermarket chain in Greece. It combines packaging made of 100% recycled fishnets from oceans worldwide with mild cleansing, plant-based detergents that help to protect the ocean life depicted in the beautiful illustrations shown across the packs,” he notes.

Taylor adds that UPM Raflatac have already had a follow up call with 2Yolk to better understand their process, how they approach brands locally and what tools they use to build sustainability into the design process: “Events like the Pentawards bring together many high-level experts from around the world and it’s a rewarding experience for all the participants.”

Morrama, a UK-based industrial design and innovation consultancy, stated that they only enter award categories that are sustainably focused. The firm won Gold in the ‘Body, skin, health and beauty’ Sustainable Design subcategory for their Wild Refill Deodorant.


The Wild Refill Deodorant won a Sustainable Design gold award for Morrama.
Source: Pentawards/Morrama

“We want to push our clients to ask tough questions and bring innovation where it is needed. As a small agency we have been able to achieve sustainable products that will disrupt and inform the big FMCG trends. Ultimately, change will come when the big players copy the little guys,” believes Morrama.

Looking to the future of sustainability in the packaging industry, Ryan says there needs to be two main approaches: “First, how can we make the current infrastructure to produce packaging more sustainable? Second, corporations, suppliers, manufacturers, and design agencies must come together to address the climate concerns, re-evaluate current supply chains and explore new materials.”

Leading this change will fall to a large brand or corporations who have the infrastructure and funds, elaborates Ryan: “It’ll be like Silicon Valley. We’re going to create a sustainable valley for packaging. It’s about producing a factory and a manufacturing set up which is completely based on a new way of producing packaging and materials and the logistics of it all.”

He adds that the desired outcome would be to see huge corporations, brands, design agencies, manufacturers and suppliers working together rather than implementing their own isolated initiatives: “We are already starting to see this happening and knowing the power designers hold to spark a packaging revolution, I am optimistic.”

The call for entries for the 2022 Pentawards competition begins on 14 February 2022.


Main image: Pentawards/Supple Studio

Your Questions Answered on the PPWR: Plastic Packaging Recyclability and Labeling Impacts
Story | 11 min

Your Questions Answered on the PPWR: Plastic Packaging Recyclability and Labeling Impacts

Read more
Forging a Sustainable Path: UPM Raflatac and Sustana Join Forces to Drive Circular Solutions
Story | 3 min

Forging a Sustainable Path: UPM Raflatac and Sustana Join Forces to Drive Circular Solutions

Read more
Makers of the world beyond: What is the biggest challenge in the packaging industry at the moment? What makes you hopeful?
Story | 6 min

Makers of the world beyond: What is the biggest challenge in the packaging industry at the moment? What makes you hopeful?

Read more