Innovation, Sustainability, Trend

That was Innovation Day 2022

24/05/2022 | 3 min read
Charlotte Enzelsberger

On May 18, 2022, Greiner Packaging held its Innovation Day at its Packworld venue in Oberwaltersdorf, near Baden bei Wien, Austria. Hosted by Daniel Cronin, the event was attended by nearly 100 delegates from 11 countries who enjoyed six presentations given by industry experts, and took part in lively interactive panel sessions. After two years of pandemic everyone particularly valued the opportunity for physical networking at Packworld.

Ambidextrous leadership wanted

Greiner Packaging CEO Manfred Stanek opened the Innovation Day with a presentation called: Ambidextrous leadership wanted – companies caught between managing global crises and transforming the packaging industry.

“I want to talk about how we at Greiner Packaging have adapted our leadership and demonstrated ambidexterity by doing two things in parallel: managing performance and dealing with all the difficulties we have experienced in the supply chain; while also managing the transformation of our entire industry.”

He outlined the huge number of unprecedented events of the past 12 to 14 months and said that in his more than 20 years in business he had not experienced so many challenges at the same time – from material shortages, massively high inflation, the ongoing Corona crisis and the war in Ukraine.

“At the same time, we are leading the transformation to a circular economy, we are improving our CO2 footprint, and fighting the climate crisis as best we can,” he said. “So, the question for us, was and remains: ‘how can we do both things simultaneously?’

“Leadership actually comes from innovation, and innovation management has helped us to come up with concepts which enable us to do two things at the same time.”

Sustainability as managed change

The next speaker was Fred Luks, an economist, sustainability researcher, and publicist. He talked about ‘Sustainability as managed change, on innovation, transformation and responsibility’.

He began by describing the various different interpretations of sustainability, and talked about the need to balance three dimensions: economy; ecology; and social issues, before discussing the links between the general goal of a societal transformation toward sustainability, and the business challenge of living up to this agenda. He emphasized the crucial role that innovation and culture have to play in this process.

“From a business perspective, there are two valuable things. Externally, it's the changing of markets, and customer preferences including people caring about the environment. On the other hand, there's a profound change in the conditions under which you do business with respect to sustainability, because on a state, European, or international level, there are changes to the framework conditions and legislation. Internally, you need strategies and plans, and you need reporting. However, without changing the culture of the company, you won't get anywhere. Changing corporate culture is absolutely crucial to create momentum for sustainability in a company.”

The future of plastics under the European Green Deal

The third speaker was Helmut Maurer, principal administrator and Senior Expert at the European Commission’s DG Environment, since 2016 in charge of chemicals and circular economy.

He talked about the future of plastics under the European Green Deal in which the European Commission has sketched out its ambitions towards climate neutrality as well as how to achieve sustainable growth while respecting planetary boundaries.

He went on to look at the real issues, from overproduction to definitions for recycling, and the actual rates being achieved. He then discussed the introduction of the Eco-design regulation for sustainable products, including the development of a Product Passport – which includes packaging – and which will create better transparency.

“We will see the Green Deal executed in one or two years, and in five years evaluations will find that we have not achieved anything tangible, and we have to do with something new.

“Plastic as a material has a short past and will have a very long future, provided we fully exploit all potential the material can have if we use it more wisely. And if we are ready to accept disruptive business models that lead us towards a future in which we consume less, but make much better use of the material we create,” Helmut Maurer concluded.

Transformation of the packaging industry towards a circular economy

Opening the afternoon sessions, was Anton Wolfsberger, Borealis Director of Strategic Polyolefins Business Projects. He discussed the transformation of the packaging industry towards a circular economy, looking at trends and challenges from a PO manufacturer’s perspective.

“Market dynamics are changing rapidly in the whole packaging value chain,” he said. “We are driven by the consumer, who no longer looks away and knows what’s going on, so brand owners must deliver brand promises. Meanwhile, retailers fight for their image and their shares and also set the pace, while NGOs amplify visibility and set frameworks. Next comes legislation and industry pledges which drive the transformation towards a circular economy.”

He explained how Borealis had expanded its portfolio with circular PO solutions to address plastic waste and climate change challenges, before comparing the traditional value chain versus PO demand, with the recycling value chain versus r-PO opportunity, saying: “The circular economy distinctly impacts the current packaging value chain, with new entrants and new feedstock leading to power changes.”

In closing, he said: “Circular innovation across the packaging value chain will be most important for delivering step changes to achieve highest circularity, and to master all these circular challenges, new collaborative business models along the packaging value chain will be required.”

The state of net zero – how to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy

The penultimate speaker was Head of ESG Solutions Northern Europe for S&P Global Sustainable 1, Sören Stöber, who discussed the state of net zero and how to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.

“Net zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere,” he said. “And the ‘net’ in net zero is important because it will be very difficult to reduce all emissions to zero on the timescale we have.”

“128 countries have adopted some form of net zero pledge,” he said. “Either as a proposal, as a stated policy, or a national law – and following COP26, more than $130 trillion of private capital is now committed to support the economic transition to net zero. More than 5000 companies around the world have published long term net zero targets.

“After a year when the United Nations warned that the world is facing a code red for humanity, progress in the world's largest companies in reaching net zero emission remains slow. As investors accelerate their own net zero strategies, companies need to be more proactive and transparent in how they imagine climate risks, and opportunities. So, measuring emissions across the business, setting robust targets, and reporting those climate related risks will set companies on the right road to achieve net zero.”

Future-scape – food, transformation and belonging

The final session was presented by food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye, whose presentation was entitled: ‘Future-scape – food, transformation and belonging, looking at the key driving forces which continue to shape consumer aspiration and behavior’.

“Looking ahead to 2025, I’ve chosen the theme of ‘be(longing)s’,” she said. “The word has lots of meanings. We all have too many belongings and we're moving into a time where we're going to have stuff that nobody else wants. But we’ve also been talking about a ‘new normal’ – wanting to get back to how things used to be – but there's also a longing for a different type of future.

“March 2023 will be the first point since 2020, where we'll have a chance to really take stock and look back at what happened in the last three years. And then we'll get to 2025 where we're going to start to understand really where we're at, and what this new future looks like.”

In her highly visual presentation, Morgaine Gaye then talked about the changes we should expect to see in the future, from ‘products with purpose’ and ‘less is better’, to ‘mono-materials’ and ‘waste is wealth’. From texture to more natural design and 3-D printing, she showed many examples of foods which already exist, but which are clues to the future.

“People want to feel good about their choices, and consumers are ready to pay that little bit more to know that they're actually making a difference.”

 

Recording of each session will be available soon.
Follow Greiner Packaging on social media and its website for details of the Innovation Day 2024.

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