The best gift the industry can give to the environment is responsible packaging and production, says David Rennie

Packaging defines both the look and the feel of Christmas for many consumers and, over the years, seasonal selection boxes have become an established part of Christmas gifting.

The primary function of packaging is to protect the contents, minimising waste while maximising sales through consumer appeal. In the modern world, it should also be about minimising resource wastage in the very manufacture of packaging itself.

The challenge our industry faces at the moment is: can less packaging really do and be more?

Consumers are becoming ever-more engaged with the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions and packaging is firmly on their radars. Jo Swinson MP has brought the issue to the fore with her campaign to promote responsible packaging and production.

It's against this backdrop that Christmas 2009 will see Nestlé reach the end of an innovative 24-month seasonal packaging journey. Earlier this year, our move to smaller recyclable cardboard Easter boxes, saving more than 700 tonnes of waste, received a positive reaction, demonstrating that consumers, customers and stakeholders recognise manufacturers who make genuine efforts to improve packaging footprints without compromising on appeal.

This Christmas, Nestlé's two million selection boxes will be almost half the size they were in 2007, saving more than 200 tonnes of waste, without losing any of the confectionery volume; 95% of the packaging involved will be made from materials that are widely recyclable in the UK, up from 70% in 2007. We've also improved our supply chain's environmental footprint, with our new co-packing facility at York saving up to 4,000 lorry journeys a year.

So, can packaging really do more with less? At Nestlé we've taken a lead in showing it can. Through innovation we can make products more desirable, using less resources, while still fulfilling the primary mission to protect what's inside. One thing is for sure, packaging will still be playing its part in making Christmas everyone's favourite time of year. There'll just be less of it.

David Rennie is managing director of Nestlé Confectionery UK.