L&NW sat down with Anantshree Chaturvedi, CEO of FlexFilms, to discuss a wide ride of pressing industry topics, from sustainability to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Where do you see demand for sustainable packaging?
Chaturvedi: According to a recent study by New York University, about 50% of CPG growth from 2013-2018 came from sustainably-marketed products. Moreover, products that were promoted as “sustainable” grew 5.6 times faster than those that were not. The EU and USMCA region are also definitely more sustainability-aware markets, and that’s exciting. But, in my opinion, the next real phase of growth in this type of market will come from a combination of developing and newly-developed markets such as Eastern Europe, the Asian belt, Brazil and Peru.
How can flexible packaging play a role in sustainability?
Chaturvedi: Flexible packaging offers many environmental benefits compared to other forms of packaging. It offers stronger barrier properties that result in an extension of product shelf life, which helps control food waste. It also offers a higher product-to-packaging ratio and a lower overall carbon footprint. FlexFilms is also the global leader in the areas of recycling and biodegradability, which reduces waste going into landfills and oceans.
How have you navigated safety during these tough times?
Chaturvedi: We’ve invested more heavily than ever in health and hygiene protocols at our offices and plants, which allowed us to continue operating full strength, producing “essential” goods such as PPE, face masks and shields, along with our flexible packaging films.
The key has been that our staff has taken COVID-19 very seriously, and the results have been outstanding. In all candor, I was initially skeptical about the possible impact that the pandemic could have on our business. But, I had complete trust in our safety managers, plant managers, department heads and other leaders who jumped into action beginning in February. They kept on top of the situation, kept us safe, and running at full capacity. Kudos to them.
Have you noticed the demand of sustainability has decreased during COVID-19, and why/why not?
Chaturvedi: Because of the pandemic, there has been a shift in consumers’ attitudes regarding single-use containers versus reusable containers for products such as condiments and beverages in restaurants, as well as pre-packaged fruits and vegetables versus fresh. In other words, consumers are wary of the health risks inherent in using products that have been refilled over and over again in the same containers or that are openly displayed and touched by others.
Interestingly, many of our customers have been taking the time during this crisis to reach out to our R&D departments to inquire about how Flex can help them gear-up toward more sustainability in their packaging. After the pandemic recedes, they really want to make a bigger push in the areas of PCR, biodegradability, and supporting our Project Plastic Fix.
Moreover, major financial institutions are investing more heavily than ever into sustainability in our industry through vehicles such as Green Bonds and ESG Bonds, resulting in a dramatic increase in customer interest in this area.
How has your collaboration been with brands during the pandemic?
Chaturvedi: We have had great collaboration with major companies in the health and sanitation markets to produce new, innovative packaging for products like liquid soaps and hand sanitizers in unique tubes and free-standing spout pouches. Because the public health need was so great, we have literally reorganized our factories to help keep consumers safe and reduce supply chain shortages to stores during this crisis.
Moreover, we’ve put our heads together with health experts to develop PPE such as safer and more breathable medical coveralls, face shields and masks. This is something in which I take great personal pride.
How has your team responded to this evolving situation with much uncertainty?
Chaturvedi: As a global leader in a genuinely essential industry, FlexFilms takes its role very seriously in living up to its standards. For example, because of the importance we have placed on the well-being of our employees, Flex has been able to manufacture at 100% capacity through this crisis. Our staff is way too talented, innovative and intelligent to let this virus beat us. In fact, we refuse to even let it slow us down.
Is there anything I missed about your company or effort that you feel the industry would benefit?
Chaturvedi: I would like to reiterate that we are working hard to solve the plastic dilemma once and for all. Our top leadership is focused on that goal. Through our films that incorporate PCR and biodegradability, as well as programs such as Project Plastic Fix, FlexFilms is striving for a sustainable future for our customers, our shareholders and for the public at large!