How does sustainable innovation become a success story?

The answer lies in a study that CONAI commissioned to the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, with the aim of investigating how an idea of packaging innovation is conceived and developed. To this end, a number of winning companies of the Conai Competitions between 2019 and 2022 were selected, on the basis of the material treated, the market sector and the ecodesign levers activated.

The research group led by Professor Francesco Testa planned and conducted a qualitative survey, analysing the business, strategic and organisational dynamics that have made it possible to develop a sustainable packaging solution into a successful product, so as to merit a Conai award for ecodesign. Vinicio di Iorio (research fellow in sustainability management at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies) described the genesis of the project during a webinar organized by the National Packaging Consortium on 6 March.

The selection and operational phase. The study started with desk research, analysing archive data to identify a series of case studies to examine. 5 virtuous cases among the winners of the latest Ecopack editions were then selected, the most diverse as possible between them in terms of company size, business, and product manufactured, as well as the material used to produce the packaging: a sufficiently representative and composite sample, but at the same time kept to a limited number of industrial enterprises that can be investigated in depth.

Specifically, the five companies examined were Eurovetrocap spa, Fiorini International srl, Henkel Italia Operations srl, ManettiRoberts and Venegoni srl - Gruppo Fanti. The interviews of key figures, involved in various ways in the conception, development and marketing of the winning packaging solutions, made it possible to examine the most hidden aspects in detail, but also to create a map of the dynamics inside the enterprises in question.

Business formulas

Interpretation of the case studies collected offers interesting food for thought, and below we summarise a number of considerations made by the Sant’Anna School researchers regarding “Business culture”, “Life cycle thinking”, “Collaboration between departments” and “Osmosis between the stakeholders”.

Business culture. The common thread is that “sustainability” - the series of values, attitudes and expectations of the people involved – is central to the identity of the enterprises studied.

This shared culture makes it possible to overcome the short-medium/long term dichotomy which leads to defining interventions on products NOT as a result of legal obligations and consumer demands, but rather, of voluntary actions that anticipate such requirements. Time is considered a unique dimension, in a prospect of a “long present”, in which the important thing is to act immediately, and in advance, because soon there may be no opportunity for renewal (and time to adapt).

In this way, the companies become “creators” of their own future, thereby gaining a significant advantage over those who fail to act so promptly.

Life cycle thinking. The shared business culture turns into a “state of mind” which allows you to think about the entire life cycle of the product, to reduce, first and foremost, environmental impact and to optimise all the various phases (procurement of raw materials, product, use, post-consumption). Collaboration between all departments leads to the development of a packaging (product) that meets both marketing needs and minimizes environmental impact.

It’s in the “Collaboration between departments” that Life cycle thinking essentially lies, that is, when different figures cooperate in a synergic way to achieve a common objective, improving operating efficiency and maximizing the overall value of the company.

The common aim remains the possibility of supplying the consumer with a safe product which has the lowest possible environmental impact and, in this sense, the relationship between Sustainability and Safety managers, for example, is essential.

Osmosis between the stakeholders. It’s fundamental, finally, that companies pay attention to the feedback that comes from outside the company, adapting products and services to the needs expressed by customers/consumers, but also by suppliers and future workers.

This article appears in the Special:

Find out more information about the companies mentioned in this article and published in the Buyers' Guide - PackBook by ItaliaImballaggio
CONAI (National packaging consortium)

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