Posted: 2 Min Read Corporate Responsibility

The Evolution of Software Packaging

A look back on how moving to small made a big impact

Symantec sells a lot of software. While we do sell hardware, our primary enterprise and consumer products come in software form. Today, the majority of Symantec software products come pre-installed on hardware or is downloaded electronically by customers, and thus requires no physical product or packaging materials. 

For software that can’t be downloaded electronically, our customers usually receive a piece of paper the size of a credit card when they purchase one of our products.

Today, Symantec software products that cannot be downloaded electronically come in different sized packaging
Today, Symantec software products that cannot be downloaded electronically come in different sized packaging

In the 1990s and early 2000s however, we sent our customers a large box with mostly air inside. Technology products back then were heavy, and the heavier the product the more you had to package it so it arrived in good condition. Though products began to move from hardware to software at that time, customer preferences didn’t move quite as quickly. 

To consumers of that day, a big box meant big value. 

Our big box also included a filler, a disc or CD of the product and a large paper manual (sometimes more than one!). This box was then shrink-wrapped using plastic film. The retail boxes were then packed in shipping boxes, wrapped up again for protection and sent off to our customers around the globe. 

A look back at what Symantec customers received after placing an order in 1990
A look back at what Symantec customers received after placing an order in 1990

Over the years we’ve pushed to reduce product packaging, which has greatly reduced the cost of shipping our products and the amount of waste associated with our products. We won a number of Repak Ireland Awards for our work in reducing packaging globally. 

To address the environmental aspects of packaging and waste, the European Union (EU) adopted Directive 94/62/EC in 1994 to provide a high level of environmental protection. Using compliance with this legislation as a backdrop for further change, we worked even harder to reduce the materials used in our product packaging. 

As the EU began charging companies for packaging (more packaging placed in the market meant higher fees), our sustainability team began to have additional influence on the design of how Symantec customers received their products.

Symantec product packaging continues to evolve from CDs (left, middle) to examples like this Norton Registration Card for electronic downloads (right)
Symantec product packaging continues to evolve from CDs (left, middle) to examples like this Norton Registration Card for electronic downloads (right)

We moved from selling physical CDs to software registration cards—half of a piece of standard size paper—and then to our credit card sized product key cards (shown at the top of this article). 

Migrating away from selling physical software has helped us not only reduce packaging waste, but has helped us avoid greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with materials extraction, manufacturing, and transportation. 

We then asked our team to go further. In addition to selling the majority of our software online with no packaging at all, a portion of the paper that we do use is now certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits to their communities. 

At present, all of the paper used in products coming from our Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region is FSC Certified, and a percentage of the paper used in products produced in our Asia-Pacific (APJ) region, which are then delivered to customers in APJ and America is also FSC Certified.

Symantec puts out less and less packaging each year and our environmental footprint lessens with each new product iteration. We’re excited about how far we’ve come and always thinking about the future. 

Our ability to shape a sustainable future depends directly on recognizing the limits of our planetary resources. How might packaging look differently at Symantec in the future? You’ll have to check back to find out.

About the Author

Paris Dieker

Manager, Symantec Corporate Responsibility and Environment

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