"30 Percent More Sales Through Green Transformation"
2/17/2023 Sustainability Interview

"30 Percent More Sales Through Green Transformation"

Companies that take bold action to improve sustainability can expect an increase in sales of almost one-third. This is the conclusion reached by the Horváth consultancy in its "Sustainability Study for the Manufacturing Industry". However, the packaging industry in particular should keep an eye on other trends, explains Dr. Ralf Sauter, who is a partner at Horváth and heads the Industrial Goods & High Tech Competence Center. In an interview, the market expert explains the most important developments that will shape the industry in the coming years.

Dr. Ralf Sauter is Partner at Horváth & Partner GmbH Dr. Ralf Sauter is Partner at Horváth & Partner GmbH.

According to your studies, sustainability seems to remain the top issue for the manufacturing industry in the long term. Why do packaging manufacturers need to react right now?

The strong focus of FMCG manufacturers and end customers on sustainability, as well as increasing regulations, are leading to pressure to act, and in particular for plastic-based packaging solutions. The future success of packaging companies will depend on how well they cover the issue of sustainability and develop leading solutions with visible increases in customer value. 

What factors lead to success in the competition with other suppliers? 

The packaging companies' in-house material expertise will be the key to differentiating themselves from other market players. Depending on the solution and product portfolio, many companies in the packaging sector are very far ahead here as an integrated part of the circular economy, especially in the material types of metal, paper, cardboard, cartons and glass. 

Customers reward greater efforts to improve sustainability - but don't let these measures be branded as "green washing" by the public...

...then there is the threat of a corresponding reaction from end consumers, for example through boycotts, and regulatory measures on the part of the legislature can also be the consequence. Nevertheless, although it is clear that the entire industry will have to change and that the sustainability of packaging solutions will soon become a matter of course, the consistent focus on sustainability currently still offers the packaging industry and its customers the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition.

However, more sustainability initially entails more costs. How does the commitment to the environment and climate pay off in concrete terms?

By taking additional measures to operate more sustainably, companies can hope for sales growth of 30 percent or more, as our studies show. And in the longer term, it is even possible that costs will tend to fall. Incidentally, another positive effect is often overlooked in purely monetary terms: Commitment to greater sustainability is an essential attribute when it comes to attractiveness as an employer.

Sustainability is an essential factor, but not the only one, that will shape companies in the packaging industry in the coming years. What other trends have your scientists observed?
Digitalization as a driver of profitability and improved business models is far from over. The advantages of digital processes in particular have not yet been fully exploited in the packaging industry, which sometimes still operates in a rather old-fashioned way. Potential for optimization exists, for example, in operations, procurement, customer interaction and overall improvement of the business model. Here, the active management of digital transformation processes becomes a decisive lever to actually get the possible efficiency improvements implemented. From discussions with representatives of the industries and from numerous projects in the field of digitization, we know that packaging companies are pushing ahead with the topic of digital transformation at a late stage, but in a thoroughly targeted manner. However, it is also clear that a change process of this kind takes a certain amount of time before the desired payback can be realized - especially when the necessary investments are taken into account.