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Digitalisation in sustainability – what does it mean for talent?

Our sustainable packaging consultant Tim Hartnell gives his take

Digitalisation is shaking up talent acquisition and recruitment strategies in many areas – and sustainability is no exception. With ESG an increasingly important point that companies must address, it makes sense that businesses are seeking to maximise efficiency in their sustainability strategies by harnessing some of the digital tools available. But which are the main trends in digitalisation impacting how businesses approach ESG – particularly in the sustainable packaging field – and what does this mean for talent solutions?


I’ve put together a list of some key considerations below:

Digital skills and expertise

With the increasing adoption of digital technologies in packaging operations, there is a growing demand for talent with digital skills and expertise. Packaging companies may seek professionals who are proficient in using computer-aided design (CAD) software or virtual prototyping to create digital blueprints more efficiently, reducing the need for physical examples and minimising material waste. Recruiting individuals with these digital competencies can help companies leverage technology effectively to drive sustainability initiatives.


In sustainable packaging, digitalisation also creates many exciting opportunities for innovation. Companies will look for talent with strong backgrounds in research and development, innovation management, and technology integration to push sustainable initiatives. Recruiting individuals who are well-versed in emerging digital trends and technologies can help packaging companies stay at the forefront of innovation in this field. For instance, it is now possible to verify the origin and sustainability credentials of packaging materials through technologies such as blockchain and radio frequency identification (RFID).


Data analytics and sustainability reporting

With packaging operations generating large amounts of data related to sustainability metrics, there is a growing need for talent with data analysis and reporting skills. To this end, companies will want professionals who can review data, extract insights, and prepare reports that track and communicate progress on their sustainability goals – for example, using data analytics on energy consumption, carbon emissions, waste generation, and material usage to identify areas for improvement. Hiring talent with expertise in sustainability reporting and data analytics can support businesses in making informed decisions and underlining their commitment to ESG.


Consumer engagement and communication

Digital platforms play a crucial role in engaging consumers and educating them about sustainable packaging practices. As such, businesses might look for talent with skills in digital marketing, social media management, and content creation to effectively communicate their sustainability efforts to consumers. People with the skills to strategise and execute digital marketing campaigns aligned with sustainability goals can enhance a company's brand reputation and attract environmentally conscious consumers.


Collaboration and stakeholder engagement

Digitalisation can facilitate collaboration with external stakeholders such as suppliers, customers, and sustainability organisations. Packaging companies in particular might hire talent with strong collaboration and relationship management skills to engage with partners on sustainability initiatives. Fostering partnerships and navigating digital platforms for effective stakeholder engagement can enhance a company's ESG efforts – and sustainable packaging firms will want the talent to make this happen for them.


We’ve seen, increasingly, how the impact of digitalisation on sustainable packaging operations can shape the skills and expertise that informs companies’ approach to talent acquisition. Accordingly, packaging companies may continue to prioritise recruiting professionals with digital skills, data analytics capabilities, innovative mindsets, consumer engagement proficiency, and collaborative aptitude to drive sustainability efforts effectively.


An intriguing pattern I’ve observed during my conversations with Chief Sustainability Officers is their appreciation for the strong bond they share with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). They highlight the significance of cutting-edge technological advancements passionately, as these innovations play a pivotal role in determining the company’s level of success in achieving its sustainability objectives.


I would urge anyone looking for advice on their talent solutions – digital and otherwise – in sustainable packaging to reach out to me. I’d be only too happy to help!

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