Earlier this year, we conducted a customer-centric sustainability study in Stora Enso’s Packaging Solutions Division. We wanted to better understand our customers’ current and future needs for sustainable packaging and find new ways to engage with them. We also hoped to identify concrete business and growth opportunities emerging from sustainability. I would like to share a couple of observations we made during the project.
A global brand owner that participated in our study said:
“The packaging is either the best or worst element associated with our products. Unsustainable and excessive packaging is one of the biggest turn-off factors for our customers. We simply cannot afford unsustainable packaging, it’s very bad for our brand and hurts our business.”
The message is clear: sustainability is the megatrend of our time and the empowered customer will pick the winners and losers. In our case, the empowered customer will invest in sustainable packaging if it supports the brand’s values, image, and business strategy.
The empowered customer is also becoming impatient. Sustainable packaging solutions are in high demand and needed immediately. The fastest and most cost-efficient way to get sustainable, custom-tailored packaging to the market is by co-creating together with the customer.
Co-creation is collaborative capability development aiming to produce a mutually valued and desired outcome (in our case, packaging or related service). This means better solutions and better business for all. At its best, the co-creation process brings added, even unexpected rewards. In addition to working together with the customer to find the right solution, you have an opportunity to build a strong business relationship founded on transparency and trust. What could be more important than that?
We have great and open-minded customers. During our study, our customers clearly showed their willingness to disrupt and go beyond traditional ways of collaboration and doing business. A representative of a global food and beverage conglomerate said it well in one of our several discussions:
“Johan, you know, we can solve the easy sustainability challenges ourselves and that’s part of our daily business. Now we only have the tricky ones left. We should start discussing better ways to co-operate for bigger impact. Neither company is reaching its full potential with the current conventional customer-supplier relationship.”
The study on our customers views on current and future needs for sustainable packaging has been eye-opening in many ways. The most surprising thing for me personally was the customers’ eagerness to move quickly into concrete actions such as testing and piloting new products and concepts that could improve sustainability performance. This tells me that walking the talk really matters and that tangible results are what count at the end of the day.
Through our sustainability study we were able to identify several new business opportunities and are now progressing with concrete actions and collaboration with selected customers. We will report back on interesting findings and lessons learned– so stay tuned!
Johan Lunabba serves as Senior Vice President, Sustainability, in the Packaging Solutions division. He joined Stora Enso in 2018 and is a member of the divisional leadership team. Johan has extensive background in business-driven sustainability, stakeholder engagement, and strategic communications, both from stock-listed companies and management consulting.