Most executives would be happy to have Procter & Gamble Co., Starbucks Corp. or Coca-Cola Co. on their resumes. Allison Lin has all three — and she's tackled plastics and sustainability at each career stop.
Lin, 32, has been director of global closures and labels at Coke since 2015. Prior to that, the Montgomery, Ala., native served as senior purchasing manager for sustainable plastics at P&G (2007-12) and worked in sustainable packaging at Starbucks (2012-13).
She arrived at Cincinnati-based P&G after earning an undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from Duke University.
“It was really kind of random,” she said. “I thought I was going to go into investment banking, but P&G had a plastic tubes project available, like for toothpaste tubes.
“So I got into it and liked it. I loved learning about all different parts of the industry.”
The plastics market has impressed Lin by the willingness of different players to work together to find solutions. She also likes that the industry “is fast-paced and is always moving.”
At P&G, Lin — who spent part of her childhood in Taiwan and speaks both English and Mandarin — drove the company's first global strategy for recycled plastics. In that role, she influenced the inclusion of additional bioplastics and recycled plastics into additional P&G brands and products. She also influenced the addition of recycled plastics usage into sustainability goals across the company.
During that time, Lin also served on the Association of Plastic Recyclers' communication committee, where she helped develop, launch and analyze a survey on consumers' understanding and behavior related to recycled plastics.
Since joining Coke, Lin has led the firm's first global polyolefins program to increase upstream collaboration across the supply base. In August, she will be the keynote speaker at Plastics News' 2016 Plastics Caps & Closures conference.
Lin's professional experience still affects her on a personal level. “It breaks my heart to see our products end up in a landfill,” she said. “I want to do something about it.”
The thing about the plastics industry that surprises her the most is the frequency of what she considers irresponsible business practices.
“Businesses are willing to sell materials that are worse for the environment while marketing it as ‘green' for short-term gain. This hurts the entire industry, as consumers are getting smarter at finding out information, and it furthers the negative perception of plastics,” she said.
“We need rules in place to govern sustainable packaging claims,” she said.
There are constantly new bioplastic sources, and their actual sustainability impact needs to be analyzed with data and not with irresponsible marketing, she said.
The best advice she's ever received: “Easy solutions are usually already implemented. Breakthrough solutions take work and collaboration, but they have the biggest impact. Aim for the breakthrough solutions.”
She said her mentor at Coca-Cola leads the company's 5-by-20 initiative, which seeks to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020, many of whom are in sustainability.
To relax, Lin is very active in dog rescue groups. “It's one of the most rewarding experiences to see a dog get adopted and find a loving home. I also like yoga and weightlifting,” she said.