The society that we live in today has numerous pressing issues and sustainability is at the forefront of that. The type of leadership required for a 21st-century corporation is very different to that which brought us where we are today. Sustainable leaders are challenging the status quo in the packaging industry and making improvements.

Why are Sustainable Leaders Important?

The issue of sustainability is one that transcends borders. There is pressure on global, food and material resources. It is becoming an increasingly important factor for organisations to illustrate their sustainability, particularly in the packaging sector. As a result, packaging companies are in need of sustainable leaders that can provide short term results with long term sustainability processes.

What is a Sustainable Leader?

Sustainable leaders are able to look beyond the immediate needs of the business and implement long-term strategies that provides results without compromising the present. They implement systems that deliver results that improve the environment, social and financial performance of an organisation.

What Makes a Successful Sustainable Leader?

Sustainable leaders have several key competencies that can be broken down into three areas.

Systems Thinking: Able to look at current processes and use their own previous knowledge to implement processes and systems that will change and organisation’s ecological footprint for the better.

Relationship Building: Being able to communicate the vision the company is heading into all stakeholders creates a cohesive direction that can provide fruitful results.

Sustainability Mindset: A strong vision and understanding of what sustainability is, allows the leader to implement a plan that will deliver results. Realising there is a bigger picture and engineering a change to manage the delivery of corporate sustainability is a key trait.

Why Are Sustainable Leaders Important in Packaging?

Sustainable packaging and waste management is now an issue of key importance to businesses, governments and the public. Packaging companies are usually high on the list when the aforementioned parties are placing blame.

There are numerous areas of concern, from the procurement of raw materials, the manufacturing process, distribution and disposal. These issues have all been absorbed in the public conscious over the last twenty years and people are expecting strong leadership to tackle each process and reduce the ecological footprint.

The challenges therefore for sustainable leaders in packaging are numerous. Adapting the processes of the lifecycle of a product from initial conception through to disposal without affecting the bottom line is a formidable challenge.

However, the benefits of sustainable packaging can result in a company increasing it sales revenue and profit. Looking at processes in detail often results in more streamlined procedures or introductions of new technologies that can assist in reducing overheads.

A strong sustainable leader will be able to communicate the changes to influencers in government, environment agencies and the public. Having a clear, open and honest sustainability program results in an improvement of a brand’s image among stakeholders. According to a recent study by Nielsen 75% of Millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

“Brands that establish a reputation for environmental stewardship among today’s youngest consumers have an opportunity to not only grow market share but build loyalty among the power-spending Millennials of tomorrow, too,” says Grace Farraj, SVP, Public Development & Sustainability, Nielsen.

Hiring Sustainability Leaders

The search for sustainable leaders has intensified in the packaging industry. Despite the growing need for sustainability, finding candidates with the necessary skills and experience is challenging.

Heinz operates a graduate secondment programme that places future leaders into their supply chain to learn about sustainability processes. However, the need for sustainable leaders is more apparent in senior appointments, where organisations vision from the top.

“Talent acquisition for sustainable leaders is a strategy being implemented by many packaging organisations today.” Said Luke Robbins-Wells, Director of Chad Harrison International.

“Companies are finding it difficult to attract the limited number of sustainable leaders in the industry at the moment. That’s where Chad Harrison helps, by working exclusively with clients to search and select suitable sustainable leaders.”