Plastics has a story to tell, and it's a good one, according to one of the largest processors in the world.
Berry Global Group Inc. has its roots in Evansville, Ind., but operations around the globe, — thousands of employees in more than 130 locations.
CEO Tom Salmon, who has been in the top job for a little more than a year, believes people who work in the industry can have a voice in the plastics debate.
The company recently launched an internal program called Plastics Ambassadors. The goal is to educate and advocate about the benefits of the plastics industry.
The Berry program comes at a time when the Plastics Industry Association also realizes the need for the trade group's member companies to engage in conversations.
CEO Bill Carteaux recently indicated the effort, called "This Is Plastics," will "inspire meaningful discussions about the power of plastics."
Following Berry's recent announcement of its Plastics Ambassadors program, Salmon participated in a question-and-answer interview.
Q: How long have you been thinking about this idea and can you provide some background of how it evolved?
Salmon: Through our work with the Plastics Industry Association, we have uncovered an immense amount of potential within our industry and the stories simply are not being told. Our story of positive outcomes that plastics provide, whether it be from food preservation, agriculture, and an array of other industries, we, as an industry, are creating products that help save and improve lives every day.
It is time these stories are told. Our position is simply that if you look at the facts, there's a tremendous amount of positive information to consider. And we want to make sure our employees know that story, and as much as we can guide the broader industry, we want our suppliers, peers and customers to know and feel prepared to share that story as well.
Q: For perspective, just how big of an image problem do you think plastics have in general?
Salmon: We, as an industry, need to do a better job educating people about the facts around plastic. Plastics generate less than half of the CO2 emissions of alternatives; they use a fraction of the energy and natural resources of alternatives. Think about packaging that extends the shelf life of fresh food, healthy food.
Our agriculture products improve crop yields. Our nonwovens help reduce the risk of infection in hospitals. All across our industry, we're making products that help save and enhance lives every day.
Q: Why is it time now to tell a new story?
Salmon: It's always a good time to do what's right. We feel strongly about our company mission of "Always advancing to protect what's important." We want to show the many ways plastics protects the things we care about most. We had an opportunity to present at the World Petrochemicals Conference, and that really served as a catalyst.
It is important that the Berry culture reflects that of advocates for the plastics industry. We encourage other companies to do the same. The Plastics Industry Association has been a valuable resource and can provide the same to the entire industry.
Q: What's your vision of a strong and unified voice about the positive aspects of plastics?
Salmon: We've met with suppliers, we've connected with industry associations, and we've spoken with and listened to a lot of voices. And we hear two things pretty consistently.
One is that there are a lot of really positive efforts underway throughout the supply chain, whether it's products, resins or capture systems. And the second thing we hear is that we need to do a better job of telling our story.
We acknowledge the areas where more work is needed. But what we can and must do now is change the vision we project. We, the plastics industry, are the key drivers to how we are perceived.
Q: What will Berry specifically do to champion this effort?
Salmon: This isn't about Berry being a champion for this effort. The plastics industry as a whole has a tremendous opportunity to engage with one another strategically to tell a different story.
Q: How will you engage others?
Salmon: We are encouraging the industry to take a more collaborative role in educating consumers of the benefits plastics can provide. We launched an internal program called Plastics Ambassadors to lead education and advocacy among our employees and internal stakeholders.
We are engaging with resin suppliers, industry associations, and other partners to work together strategically to tackle this challenge more broadly. This is an opportunity for our industry to act and collaborate with one voice.