Consumer Focus: Safety or Sustainability

Before the pandemic, sustainability was one of the biggest issues in manufacturing. Consumers and brands alike were emotional about environmentally responsible packaging, materials scientists were getting excited about new kinds of recyclable packaging, and machine designers vied for the greatest energy efficiency.

The pandemic might have changed that. Safety, from pristine packaging to secure supply chains, moved top of mind for a lot of people.

Worker safety

The systems that ensure worker safety broke down during the pandemic, it’s safe to say. Meat packing plants lost at least 239 workers to COVID-19, with an estimated 45,000 infected. Fewer than half that many cases were reported, and far fewer were investigated.

Manufacturing can be dangerous, and that was certainly true in the case of COVID-19. Work from home options are few and far between, and factories are not designed to keep workers at safe distances.

Now, employers are setting up vaccination clinics, giving workers time off to receive vaccinations, and generally trying to get workers vaccinated. Some are maintaining protocols like requiring masks and social distancing. But a lot of manufacturers are not sure what to do going forward.

Sanitation continues to be an issue for worker safety.

Consumer safety

We now have enough data to be confident that COVID-19 is rarely spread by inanimate objects. The virus can live on some surfaces, but not long enough to reach consumers from a factory.

However, the pandemic has made consumers much more hygiene-conscious than they used to be. We’re washing our hands more, cleaning our surfaces more, using harsher chemicals than we used to, and reacting more negatively to anything that doesn’t seem clean or sanitary.


Yet consumers are, if anything, more concerned about sustainability than before the pandemic. 95% of consumers in a BCG survey said that they believed their actions had direct effects on the environment. McKnsey reports that consumers will pay more for sustainable packaging.

Hygiene is more important to consumers right now than sustainability, but concern for the environment is also part of the current focus on health and wellness.

In the final analysis, it’s clear that the trend toward environmental responsibility is still on track…even though safety and hygiene are newly important.

Consumers basically want it both ways.

In the meantime, we can help you with all your Rexroth electric industrial motion control needs.

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