According to new independent research commissioned by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), packaging sustainability is a high priority for almost two in three decision makers at Fortune 500 consumer-product companies, the business group has announced.

The research, which polled decision makers from major consumer packaged goods companies earlier this year, revealed that one big challenge for consumer-product companies is that insufficient information is available on how to assess and compare the sustainability properties of competitive packaging materials.

The polled executives defined sustainability as the ways in which different materials contribute to the environmental and social story of products and brands. Some important indicators to determine sustainability include recycling and the energy required to transport, store, use and dispose of the packaging, according to the interviewed executives. Other considerations were also highlighted, such as the greater societal, environmental and community impacts associated with the materials themselves.

RELATED: Nestle launches project to deal with food contact chemicals in packaging

As a follow-up to the research, SMDI has decided to start an education campaign to highlight the qualities of steel as a material that can meet the sustainability needs of the packaging industry, putting the emphasis on performance.

Some of the advantages of steel over other materials include energy efficiency, food safety, food waste reduction and better economic efficiencies.

The steel packaging campaign from SMDI will continue during the whole of 2013 and will include online education sessions for professionals, as well as industry-wide surveys about steel packaging and videos that stress the wider benefits resulting from the use of steel in consumer packaging. The group, which is a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, has also launched an educational website,, and will take part in future packaging industry events to demonstrate the sustainability benefits of the material.