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2022 in review – Sustainable Packaging

Read on for an update from Tim Hartnell, Senior Consultant for our Sustainable Packaging practice

Decisive action on the climate crisis is becoming increasingly urgent. More and more, consumers are embracing sustainable products and spending patterns – including in packaging. But what were the main trends in this market this year, and what does 2023 hold?

Increased demand for paper packaging

The EU has recently put forward a new draft regulation to further curb the use of plastic, building on the ‘plastic tax’ introduced in 2021. In the UK, meanwhile, the Plastic Packaging Tax came into effect in April 2022. Various companies worldwide have pledged to phase out plastics from their manufacturing altogether.

As such, we’ve noticed more demand for paper packaging in particular this year – with even wine bottle manufacturers entering this market.

PE and VC investment down

Investment from private equity and venture capital slowed down towards the end of the year. There seems to be a lack of appetite given current geopolitical events and the knock-on constraints affecting many companies. Watching and waiting – or divesting current assets – appears to be on everyone’s minds before things begin to pick up again in 2023.

Organisational trends

Many large companies are either considering a transformation, have gone through a merger recently, or are partway through an internal restructure. Accordingly, we are seeing more demand for senior executive talent across commercial and general management – with a particular emphasis on strategy, operations, change management, and business integration experience.

Ultimately, packaging companies have been busy across functional areas, but there is much more activity in the sustainable market. We have been looking at operational roles in particular lately. Sustainable packaging firms are well placed to take up the market share currently held by plastic manufacturers in the long term, though more general managers are needed to implement these goals.

Staffing trends

Backgrounds in procurement, supply chain, and product development have never been in greater demand, as companies shift their hiring patterns. Separately, we have noticed plenty of activity within Research & Development, Sales, Procurement, Supply Chain, Materials and Operations.

As companies look at more sustainable solutions and emerging technologies for their products, many are striving to find the very best talent from across these key functions. Indeed, we have seen some of the larger packaging organisations using our services to focus on succession planning, and – in some cases – identifying replacements for members of staff that are retiring. There is a particular focus on DE&I for new hires, as firms move to adopt diversity policies at corporate level.

New initiatives

Finally, it is worth commenting on the visibility of programmes such as the Earthshot Prize to promote and support sustainable business. The initiative, which is presented by Prince William, offers five companies £1 million each to continue their environmental work. This year’s UK winner was the sustainable packager Notpla, which won for packaging material made from seaweed. The company previously developed a capsule that could hold water and produced one million takeaway boxes for JustEat this year alone. It will certainly be interesting to follow Notpla’s developments – could seaweed be the future of packaging?

Thank you for reading – happy holidays, and all the best for 2023!

If you need solutions for your sustainable packaging executive search, please get in touch.


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