On the cusp of a packaging revolution

We have reached an important crossroads in how we address sustainability as a society, with consequences in terms of what we need to focus on to deliver on this agenda and how we manage this operationally.

A marked shift in consumer awareness and a rapidly changing regulatory environment are driving major change. Companies are responding to this by setting ambitious goals to make their operations and products more sustainable. Those with the right focus are already thinking of ways to design circularity into their systems and products from the beginning, and using innovation as the key to unlocking sustainability.

For the global food packaging industry, this is a time of tremendous opportunity. With today’s digital breakthroughs, the industry as a whole can harness this momentum to reconsider what can be achieved, how, by when and with whom.

With 100 years of history and a strong Nordic heritage in sustainable food on-the-go and food on-the shelf packaging solutions, we at Huhtamaki are committed to making packaging more circular, with a lower carbon footprint and embedding sustainability in everything we do.

But we also believe that no single organization holds all the answers. 

Packaging circularity involves everything from raw material (to start), design, production and disposal to recycling, recovery and reuse.

To address the challenges we face—and gain perspective on their true size and scope—all stakeholders must cooperate across the value chain. Only together can we continue to protect the health and safety of consumers and the wellbeing of the planet, and deliver sustainable innovation for generations to come. Together we can learn from one another and dare to make a difference where it matters.

One risk in trying to solve such complicated problems is the so-called progress paradox: decisions that might seem progressive can have unintended consequences and end up hurting the cause. In some cases, these decisions can even make matters worse.

Through this report, we want to create a platform to openly address these issues and move towards finding solutions. By reflecting differing viewpoints from a range of contributors—such as leaders from academia, business, NGOs and other key institutions—we hope to move the circularity dialogue forward and contribute to a common understanding.

Our first edition includes a broad spectrum of perspectives:

For example, according to Caesaré Assad, CEO of the U.S.-based non-profit Food System 6, fragmentation and diversity are needed to build a resilient food system.

For Frank Heidlberger, Director of Global Supply Chain at McDonald’s, a circular economy requires innovation in materials and design as well as broad partnerships to tackle issues in recycling infrastructure.

According to Annica Bresky, CEO, Stora Enso, packaging regulation that is too local and extensive will slow down innovation.

Meanwhile, Jyrki Katainen, President of Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, thinks we won’t have circularity without the markets, and we won’t have the markets unless we create the rules for them.

Whether you are looking to better understand how we design for circularity or how to take on the challenges of becoming a sustainability change agent within your company, we hope that you enjoy reading the report and find the insights useful. Together we can create a more circular future for us all.

Think Future. Think Circle.


Thomasine Kamerling
Executive Vice President, Sustainability and Communications, Huhtamaki

Designing for Circularity roundtable

Couldn’t join us live at the first Think Circle roundtable Designing for Circularity? The virtual roundtable was held on November 10, 2020 and the recording is now available.

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors or interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Huhtamäki Oyj or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates (Huhtamaki). Huhtamaki makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this publication and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Except as otherwise specified, no article or portion herein is to be reproduced or adapted to other works without the expressed written consent of Huhtamaki.