Hi-Cone: improving sustainability along the supply chain
Shawn Welch, Vice President and General Manager of Hi-Cone, elaborates on its shift from virgin plastics to 50% PCR products to improve sustainability along the supply chain.
What are the current trends within your industry?
At the height of the post Blue Planet era, the food and beverage packaging industry is facing an increasing demand for sustainable solutions. Hi-Cone has invested considerable resources to achieve our ambitious sustainability goals and we are calling for the industry to come together to maximise impact. By working closely with organisations along the supply chain, everyone – from beverage brands to retailers and suppliers – can contribute to a more sustainable future.
Out of these trends what do you feel will be the biggest disrupter to the industry?
The global shift towards sustainability has generated a great degree of positive change and energy. At Hi-Cone, we have embraced the growing demand for sustainable packaging and are aiming to help create a more circular economy by using at least 50% post-consumer recycled content in our products and partnering with recycling organisations where the current infrastructure is not sufficient. The circular economy will likely lead to big changes in how we use products and we are committed to do our part. However, Green Alliance’s new report recently warned consumers and other stakeholders to consider the environmental impact of plastic packaging alternatives, for example, so it is crucial to consider the life cycle impact of any changes to packaging.
What innovative technology do you see emerging in the near future?
With the growing collaboration across the manufacturing, consumer goods, recycling, and government sectors, we will start to see a more standardized system for measuring companies’ environmental impact and the progress they are making towards a circular economy. We have already witnessed the beginning of this system with the launch of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s new Circulytics tool to help measure companies’ sustainability development. New tech in recycling technologies and in material manufacturing will also help eliminate unnecessary waste and make sure that all material that can be recycled has a way to enter the circular economy. By increasing the amount of post-consumer recycled content, recycled materials will likely be perceived as a valuable resource in the future. This might also help incentivise changes in recycling infrastructure.
What are the biggest challenges within your industry at the moment?
The biggest challenge we are facing right now is a lack of consensus on the impact of different materials throughout their lifecycle. Many see plastics packaging as the issue but more information is starting to emerge that it might be more complex than this. As more reports, such as the one by Green Alliance, begin to surface and warn that we may be fixing one problem with an even bigger one, we need to shift gears to find a real solution and work together to put it into practice.
How is your company evolving alongside new trends?
At Hi-Cone, we are taking sustainability very seriously and are committed to achieving our ambitious sustainability goals. We work with our customers closely to make sure we are providing a packaging solution that is also aligned with their sustainability goals. We have partnered with various recycling and environmental organizations to make sure the products we produce are recycled either through existing infrastructure or supplementary infrastructure provided by our partners. We are also committed to improving our products and will be rolling out new solutions, made from recycled content, throughout the year.
How is your company utilising innovative technology?
Our innovation lab is the heart of our sustainability efforts. Using new techniques in plastic manufacturing we have been able to produce a product that is made of 50% post-consumer recycled material, RingCycles™. Hi-Cone has also partnering with several recycling companies, including TerraCycle™ in the UK. Through this partnership, Hi-Cone is utilising new technology in recycling to make sure that consumers can easily recycle our products to give them a second life.
What would you say is your company’s biggest success to date?
Hi-Cone’s biggest success towards our sustainability goals was our recent launch of RingCycles™, which is a truly minimal packaging solution, ensuring that consumers can keep enjoying the convenience of beverage multipacks while beverage companies can easily switch over to a more sustainable solution. We are already working on the next step of our sustainability journey and are committed to setting more and more ambitious goals.
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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.