Week 20+21 Finalising Report

Curtis Packaging Interview

Participant form I created – but they did not send back to me signed. However I did receive confirmation via email that they were happy for me to record as follows:


  • Established family run business for 80 years
  • Sustainability first looked at 20 years ago and changed the way they operated
  • FSC materials only used to ensure that area is sustainable – but fairly easy tick. They only use vegetable and soya based inks and this does not compromise on quality – “cleaner and greener”. Water based varnishes and conventional printing not UV. Switching to more recycled content also, not just using FSC
  • Virgin boards are stronger than sustainable materials – experimentation with the boards. The client did not mind tiny quality reduction as they want to be sustainable. Quality of sustainable materials is now much higher – bright white stocks are available and you are not seeing compromise on quality
  • Curtis as a company try to reduce waste and have a waste pipe which collects and compacts waste to reduce overall waste by 80%
  • If one company makes changes it will inspire other brands to follow
  • Covid and Brexit have had significant impact on sourcing materials – has increased local production! Willing to switch to expensive option in UK in order to reduce carbon footprint
  • Curtis actually source their materials from a mixture of places – UK and Sweden, and Italy. Would consider switching to UK if possible but they cannot control where those paper mills are located
  • In terms of Eco-Collective – the disconnect with manufacturers and designers and the overview of my idea explained – would Curtis find it valuable to work upfront with clients? – Steve says yes! Actively encouraging clients to come visit them and discuss artwork from the get go. This would be the clients chosen designers either in-house or externally sourced
  • Presenting Bull Dog packaging which Curtis have produced – conscious decision to remove the window element in a box to showcase the product as the window a) costs more and b) more difficult to recycle c) bigger footprint as transported, storage and manufactured etc.
  • Foiling can be used but used to a minimum of 30% – will always advise clients of this and only use as necessary. It’s expensive to use foil and therefore advise the client of this
  • FSC – certification – consumers can see this logo and people know it’s a green tick for sustainability – Curtis also work with Carbon Trust to offset carbon and were first UK company to adapt this – also issue certificates to clients to say ‘you have saved X amount of ….’
  • Curtis packaging have also created a logo for vegetable based inks
  • Start-ups – Curtis would be very interested in the opportunity to get involved with innovative bio-designers who are trying to get their packaging into the industry. Interesting point around seed packaging and making sure the machines don’t jam with them – unfortunately this can be an issue due to the scale – needs to be cost efficient so cannot be made by hand for instance
  • Combining materials is an option when the entire sustainable option isn’t strong enough to ensure it is used in some way
  • The main issue with brands not being sustainable – awareness! Not realising that a brand can drop a window in a box as not required. Suppliers responsibility to showcase new ideas and best practice
  • Lamination is plastic based and have been encouraging clients to move away from it and switch to varnishes which are water based (mentioned earlier on!)
  • Important to provide a number of options and solutions to clients
  • Enforce a 5000 order ‘MOQ’s as if a higher run will be more wasteful as not economic cost wise
  • Curtis packaging to try and guide designers regarding the artwork – i.e. colours or amendments. Where possible designers will always change it to make it more sustainable
  • Point about making relationships with designers and suppliers closer is good merit. Curtis packaging enjoy that element as they can prevent problems that occur later on so all round everyone is happier

Yay! Really pleased with this discussion overall – I have learnt about the business and how sustainability impacts them/clients from an industry perspective and also been able to seek clarification around my idea. Some points I feel that validate my project following this discussion is:

  • Being a UK based company means less footprint and supporting local suppliers, so best to do that where/when possible – interesting how Steve said that they didn’t know of any paper mills based in UK so source externally. If Eco-Collective have a contact page or contacts embedded then it would raise awareness and link suppliers to their resources in UK. Being located in one place (UK) also prevents issues from pandemics or political advances i.e. Covid-19 and Brexit
  • Knowing that clients are happy generally to see sustainable options displayed to them and advice surrounding that as they understand it can benefit their business i.e. not using wasteful products means spending less
  • Awareness around sustainability – many clients do not realise what they are able to do with their business to make those changes and find it daunting. Having the Eco-Collective toolkit will aid with this aspect
  • Certification is very much what clients love to see on their packaging and I think if Eco-Collective offer this as an extra bonus it would be really effective and something clients would happily invest in, in order for consumers to see that logo and associate their brand with quality and sustainability
  • Bringing designers and suppliers together has always worked for Curtis packaging and helps to prevent any issues or miscommunication going down the line – Eco-Collective promoting this for all working clients/suppliers would transform relationships and overall ensure a much smoother customer experience

Next Steps

  1. Input relevant information from this above interview into the report
  2. Proof read report
  3. Design
  4. Submit

The information I have written up and included in my report is as follows:

3.1 Materials

“The quality of packaging does not need to be compromised when opting for sustainable alternatives, according to Ethical Design Company “…It can require some additional problem solving if you want to design something for print and have to find creative ways to utilise the page space to save paper – without compromising the impact and strength of the design”. Curtis Packaging voiced that their clients prefer the imperfections that are a result of material testing and may opt for that alternative deliberately as it is unique. However generally, quality of sustainable materials is now much higher and bright white stocks are available, where “there is no compromise on quality” (Whatley, J. (2021a).”

3.2 Graphic Designer Responsibilities:

“Investigate eco-friendly alternates to ink such as vegetable or soya based inks and water based varnishes. As Curtis Packaging also demonstrated, advise clients about these environmentally friendly alternatives, keep luxury printing finishes to a minimum and reassure the client they can benefit from lower total cost (Whatley, J. 2021a).”