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Pharma Packaging & the EU Green Claims Directive


On a global scale, the packaging industry can effect major change, particularly when it comes to sustainability. Staying at the top of the business agenda, sustainability is a topic that dominates discussions across industries, including the pharmaceutical sector.

However, there are significant hurdles to overcome for pharma companies and consumers alike. One of the most prominent is greenwashing. This is most often described as the distortion or misrepresentation of sustainability data, eroding trust in end users and B2B purchasers.

This is set to change with the introduction of the EU Green Claims Directive by the European Commission. The change marks a new era of transparency and accountability across the European market, intended to bring more meaning back to sustainability.

Where little regulation exists on how sustainability information is externally communicated, the Green Claims Directive addresses this challenge by providing standardised criteria that all claims must adhere to. Additionally, the regulation places tougher restrictions on language that can be used when describing sustainability performance and applies to on-pack, off-pack, and digital communications.

Similar to the pillars of the UK Green Claims Code that preceded it, the EU Green Claims Directive sets out nine minimum criteria that must be met. Communications must:

  • Use recognised and substantiated scientific evidence, and state-of-the-art technical knowledge 
  • Demonstrate the significance of impacts from a lifecycle perspective 
  • Take into account all significant aspects and impacts to assess performance 
  • Demonstrate whether the claim is accurate for the whole product, or certain parts of it 
  • Show that the claim is not equivalent to requirements imposed by law 
  • Provide information on whether environmentally, the product performs significantly better than common practice 
  • Identify whether a positive achievement leads to significant worsening of another impact 
  • Reported greenhouse gas offsets in a transparent manner 
  • Include accurate primary or secondary information 

The scope of the Green Claims Directive will apply to most companies that operate within the EU. Under the proposal, businesses with fewer than 10 employees or generating less than €2 million in annual turnover, will be exempt.

Sustainability in Pharma Packaging

The pharmaceutical industry is not exempt from the global sustainability imperative. With health audiences demanding more environmentally responsible practices, pharmaceutical companies must make packaging design choices that minimise their environmental footprint. The need is clear - the Global Sustainability Study  has shown that environmental impact, both real and perceived, is a major driver in purchasing decisions, with 66% of consumers considering it a top priority.

With circularity in focus, cartonboard emerges as an effective alternative to traditional plastics. Constructed from renewable fibres, cartonboard offers is light weight, durable and is easily recyclable, even in today’s inconsistent recycling streams. Contrary to the belief that paper fibres have limited recycling potential, research has shown that cartonboard can withstand up to 25 recycling cycles  with minimal loss of strength properties.

Today, sustainability is better viewed as a series of connected strategies, rather than isolated improvements. It encompasses minimising the carbon footprint of every stage of the packaging life cycle. For example, a reduction in packaging size and weight during the design phase can further contribute to a more resource-conscious supply chain and logistics efficiencies.

Proactive collaboration between packaging suppliers and pharmaceutical companies is crucial for new sustainable packaging strategies. The technical and material insight from a dedicated packaging partner helps pharmaceutical businesses to better understand the benefits and cost implications of alternative materials, promoting a circular economy where materials are reused and recycled.

The choice of packaging partner is vital. Aiming to create a positive wave of change through the pharma and healthcare packaging sector, at MM Packaging we are actively involved in sustainability initiatives. In addition to helping support circularity in packaging design, our business activities support waste reduction, reduction of energy consumption, and minimising our ecological footprint. Certifications such as FSC, PEFC, SFI, and ISO standards underline our commitment to sustainable and responsible supply chain practices.

For pharma businesses, the EU Green Claims Directive represents a significant step toward greater transparency and accountability in the packaging industry. It's an opportunity for businesses to showcase their commitment to sustainability while reducing the prevalence of greenwashing. In the pharmaceutical sector, choosing materials like cartonboard and selecting a partner that adopts a holistic approach to sustainability can help align packaging practices with the evolving expectations of an environmentally conscious market.

As the demand for sustainable packaging continues to grow, responsible design choices and collaborative efforts will play a pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable future for all.

To find out more about how MM Packaging can support your business, get in touch by emailing