Executive Vice President, Packaging Materials Division at Stora Enso Oy
Senior Research Analyst, New Plastics Economy Initiative at Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Global Sustainability Product & Packaging Leader at Kimberly-Clark Corporation
Ahead of next month's PRIMA online conference, we spoke with our expert speakers from Kimberly-Clark, Stora Enso and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to hear their thoughts on the challenges facing the paper and packaging sectors as we move forward in uncertain times, and what they are doing to create a more sustainable future for the industry.
What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for the paper and packaging industry over the next 12-18 months?
Hannu, Stora Enso: There are three priorities for us, which surely are echoed by the sector:
Firstly, we are carefully managing the COVID-19 impact by keeping mills running and the supply chain operative. Our industry has very important role in the global value chains to provide safe packaging in various end uses. We cannot see e.g. pharma products or perishable foods shipped without protective packaging.
Secondly, we will adjust to the new normal to secure sustainable business during turbulent times: opportunities for renewable packaging materials in e.g. e-commerce and food deliveries will increase as consumers try new ways of shopping during the pandemic.
Finally, we continue our active work in promoting renewable packaging materials, and innovating in sustainable packaging materials and solutions. Despite COVID-19, the European Green Deal, Single-use plastic directive, and our efforts in improving circularity of paper-based materials keeps us focused on helping our customers respond to these demands.
Daniel, Kimberly-Clark: As we survey the external landscape and benchmark movement within the industry, it has become very clear to Kimberly-Clark that the world is rapidly changing in the packaging space and an emphasis is being placed on single-use plastic materials. For packaging specifically, this goes across industries and both governments and NGO’s are turning to Brands and manufacturers to not only be a part of the solution, but pave the way going forward through collaboration and innovation.
The Paper and packaging industry have a great opportunity here to offer solutions and alternatives that help companies achieve their sustainability ambitions. One watch-out that we must be mindful of are the avoidance of unintended consequences in our haste to solve one problem, which may result in the creation of another.
Kimberly-Clark continues to approach our innovation from a life cycle perspective and understands the necessity to avoid unintended consequences through our design choices. We are continuing to build up our life cycle analysis (LCA) capabilities at the product/package/ material design stage of development, as well as considering the end-of-life for materials and waste management infrastructure. Our Plastics Footprint program works closely with the other program areas, such as the carbon and forestry, to ensure we are aligned and working together.
As part of your presentation at PRIMA you will be referring to a guide which The Ellen MacArthur Foundation will be publishing in November. Can you tell us a bit more about the scope and objectives of the guide?
Leela, Ellen MacArthur Foundation: The new publication is titled ‘Upstream Innovation: A guide to eliminating packaging waste by design’. It has been designed as a practical guide to help organisations innovate towards achieving their packaging circularity targets, with a focus on the opportunities that exist in the design stage of a product or service. It introduces the mindset for upstream innovation, provides practical tips and decision support frameworks and showcases over 100 innovations. The guide approaches upstream innovation for packaging through the lens of plastics, but many of the findings are applicable to other packaging materials as well.
How have the pulp, paper and packaging sectors weathered the COVID-19 storm?
Hannu, Stora Enso: As many of our products have critical end uses to consumer packaging such as food and pharmaceuticals, we’ve seen the demand for our renewable packaging materials remain on a solid level throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We have worked hard to ensure our materials reach these vital industries, which have been operational throughout the outbreak. Then again in other end-uses such as luxury, food service and consumer goods, the demand has been lower. Paper demand has been hit very hard in most segments, when advertising and office paper consumption reduced significantly with remote work and less commuters.