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Exclusive Interview with Henkel

Ahead of this year's Sustainability in Packaging Asia 2024, we spoke with Yanjie Zheng, Manager – Circular Economy, Packaging & Consumer Goods Adhesive at Henkel Management Center, to get a sneak peek of what we can expect from his presentation on 'How we transform the packaging business into a sustainable future' Here's what he had to say…

Q1. Your presentation at this year’s Sustainability in Packaging Asia will cover How we transform the packaging business into a sustainable future. Why is it important for others in the industry to hear this message? 
First of all, sustainability has become increasingly significant and popular nowadays. It’s been placed at the core of global context when it comes to social development – the Paris Climate Agreement, the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference, and the Global Plastics Convention Negotiation are some of the examples. Packaging, due to its wide range of applications, complexity of materials, and relevance to daily life, will draw more attention from public with no doubts. Given the evolution of legislation and industrial standards, we as packaging players should proactively take responsibility in advocating sustainable packaging. 
Q2. What are the main challenges in your day-to-day work relating to sustainable packaging solutions? 
Sustainability is quite a sophisticated topic with many challenges ahead, considering its wide applications and technical barriers. I’d like to summarize the major ones below.
First, how we can elaborate on concept, objective of sustainability, as well as the key aspects regarding sustainable packaging in a more systematical way. This is both preliminary and challenging.
Secondly, how we can take action to fulfill the sustainability strategy, and whether we should differentiate the approaches for various kinds of packaging. This is quite exploratory for both our customers and stakeholders in the value chain.
Finally, how we can compare the current approaches with the previous ones to scientifically  measure our effectiveness in advocating sustainability, and whether we’re in line with the legislations, standards, from government, industrial associations respectively as well as company targets from brand owners.
Q3. What are some of the biggest opportunities gaining attention within the packaging industry?
Relevant to our everyday life, packaging captures people’s attention, especially whether the packaging materials applied are sustainable enough. Apart from the driving force generated by legislation and industrial standards, another factor to stimulate sustainable packaging lies in people’s focus on health & well-being, the environment, and the impact on generations to come. Under such circumstance, social responsibilities such as food safety, marine pollution, microplastics and global warming will provide opportunities for the transformation of sustainable packaging.
Q4. What do you think will be some of the most interesting advancements in packaging in the near future?
Quite many advancements are observed however they are quite scattered as well. As a packaging professional, I look forward to the enhancement of public awareness and the evolvement of the whole packaging system. The recent years have witnessed the remarkable progress generated from packaging itself, the materials, ways of usage, collecting, and waste management. Looking ahead, I can’t wait to see our industry soaring to the next level with joint efforts from all stakeholders.
Q5. What are the challenges the packaging value chain have to overcome in the next few years?
As explained above, sustainability not only relies on the efforts of a sole market player but has much to do with joint forces within the whole value chain. Only in this way can we effectively upgrade our industry. I think the awareness enhancement and guidelines from industry and government are crucial. Furthermore, I suggest introducing advanced approaches and technologies from abroad, to lay a more solid foundation for the domestic development of sustainable packaging.