With sustainability becoming the norm across almost every product category and industry, for Disney’s consumer product business, this challenge was especially pressing.
Research revealed reducing the amount of packaging, and using more recyclable materials are two of the top five environmental concerns for Disney products.
Although the company had already begun to address this issue via easy-to-open packaging, and re-affirming their commitment to the environment in-stores and with its licensees, Disney's new smart packaging initiative (SPI) takes sustainability to a new level for the company and the toy industry at-large.
“Disney’s SPI is a first for the toy industry. The SPI’s rigorous metrics-driven approach, combined with its thoughtful scoring system, makes it one of the most innovative and robust packaging sustainability assessment tools out there,” Adam Gendell, Sustainable Packaging Coalition associate director said.
“For any sustainable innovation to be successful, it must begin with looking at one’s own industry with fresh eyes and better judging what serves your customers, society and our shared future. Now Disney is rising to the challenge by reinventing its long-standing practices to set a new standard across its industry that is not only more sustainable but that will inform what generations of children will expect of packaging and its environmental impact.”
The SPI program, which launched in 2014, was the result of a six-year development process to breathe new life into The Walt Disney Company’s commitment to use resources wisely.
It also required collaboration with industry partners and subject matter experts such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition to ensure the initiative would achieve true social or environmental impact.
Disney’s SPI serves as a sustainable packaging measurement and design tool that will reduce packaging waste, increase packaging's capacity for recycling, optimise on-shelf performance, and also reduce costs for the whole industry including licensees and industry reps.
The tool examines packaging designs, gives an 'SPI score' and offers intuitive design tips and comparisons against industry norms to allow designers to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging.
As an industry first, Disney's SPI tool has received praise from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Disney's initial SPI success arose from its Princess dolls and the high-volume, Cars, product line. Both packaging lines designed to minimise environmental impact in three ways: design for recyclability, responsible sourcing and optimise use of resources which includes a reduction in materials used.
In celebration of the forthcoming Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film, Moana, Disney hopes to inspire fans to think outside the toy box and help protect the planet. The company ensured the packaging of the Classic Moana doll is made from 70 per cent recycled paper and printed with vegetable-based inks. The box is assembled without the use of glue or tape, allowing easy separation of the paper and plastic packaging pieces.
The box itself can be turned into a boat inspired by Moana’s journey, by using the included instructions, providing an added element of fun for parents and kids.
Everything at Disney starts with storytelling, even our toy packaging,” Luis Fernandez, SVP Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media said.
“By combining Disney magic and our smart packaging principles, we created a package that’s not only better for the environment, but also a way to continue Moana’s story.”
Disney’s leadership has already had a far-reaching impact, with toymaker Mattel now extending the SPI approach to the packaging for all its products.
“Mattel is using the SPI to enhance packaging, not only for the products we create with Disney, but as an additional input as we look at packaging efficiency for all of our brands,” Sarah Levine, Mattel Sustainability head said.
“And we’ve seen how quickly small adjustments can become meaningful, especially in high-volume lines. For example, a small design change in a four-pack of die-cast Cars vehicles yielded an overall paper savings of more than 1 million square inches, enough to cover a whole basketball court.”
“One of the most exciting features of the SPI is that it provides dynamic design guidance that helps reduce a package’s impact over its entire lifecycle,” Candela Montero, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media Corporate Citizenship director said.
“We’re thrilled that the SPI is being embraced by our partners and the industry, and believe its potential to make toy packaging better for the environment—and easier for parents—is huge.”
Since the launch of the SPI in 2014, the world’s largest toymakers, including The Lego Group, Hasbro, Mattel and Jakks Pacific, have implemented principles from the tool and continue to leverage it in their packaging decisions.
Meanwhile, Disney is integrating the SPI across all toy SKUs, hosting sustainable design workshops to drive packaging innovation among all licensees, and offering the SPI as part of Disney Consumer Products’ collaborative, voluntary program License to Lead, which it offers to licensees.