Thought-leading and collaborative: Two words you hear a lot these days to describe how to successfully advance important initiatives in packaging departments and organizations.
Which could be why Nina Goodrich stands out among her peers. From her earlier retort packaging work to more recent sustainability efforts and improvements, she has been poised at the leading edge of packaging industry-wide game-changing developments during her career by being both thought-leading and collaborative.
A molecular biology major and self-proclaimed lifetime student of the innovation process, Goodrich melds sound science with big-picture thinking. She believes that innovation and sustainability are linked as key drivers for the future—and has shown this to be so through several triumphs:
• She oversaw development of a revolutionary monolayer barrier program and championed new game-changing recycle technology while at Amcor PET Packaging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
• She developed a value innovation process and training program used internally and externally with customers during the mid-2000s while director of innovation at Alcan Global Pharmaceutical Packaging.
• As the program director for PAC NEXT in 2011-2012, Goodrich led the organization’s initiative of “a journey towards a world without packaging waste.”
• Currently executive director for non-governmental organization GreenBlue and director of GreenBlue’s flagship project Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Goodrich helps educate and guide the group’s 200+ member companies from across the packaging supply chain. For example, she recently co-authored the highly acclaimed article “4 key questions about 2 sustainable packaging paths,” which introduced the circular economy concept to the packaging community.
It’s fitting to recognize this sustainability trailblazer on Earth Day 2015.
As part of our continuing coverage of the Leading Ladies of Packaging, Goodrich looks back at her top achievements and challenges, as well as ahead to what’s the next Big Thing.
What was a defining moment in your career and what did you learn from it?
Goodrich: The defining moment of my career was when I moved from a management-consulting role into industry. I had been working as a consultant for a research and development (R&D) management firm. I was working on a “new technology” called a retort pouch. There are many products available today, but in 1978 it was very new.
The U.S. and Canadian military were early champions of this new technology for their field rations. Several challenges existed including the lack of understanding of how to adjust the thermal process to gain the benefits of the thin profile of the pouch but maintain the safety of the product. There was technical research required on the filling, sealing and processing of the pouches.
I had prepared a plan for the development of this technology for my client. I was asked to take a leave of absence from the consulting firm and implement the project for Magic Pantry Foods in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I learned it was easy to give advice and much harder to turn that advice into a reality. I had the opportunity to work with a number of great people in industry and government (USDA, FDA, the U.S. Army and the Canadian Army) to commercialize this technology. I learned that I loved the implementation side of projects.
What has been your toughest challenge, why that and how have you overcome it?
Goodrich: I spent most of my career in R&D. It has always been a challenge to justify true innovation projects from incremental projects. It is especially difficult as a converter to engage customers in the innovation process. I developed a Value Innovation Process to provide a framework for innovation that allowed us to move beyond purchasing and engage our customers in the process. I co-authored a book on the process.
What has been your most rewarding achievement and why?
Goodrich: Being chosen to be the executive director of GreenBlue and director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition is my most rewarding achievement.
I spent most of my career in R&D and innovation in packaging. I moved into sustainability at Alcan Global Pharmaceutical Packaging. We were fortunate to have clear direction and leadership on sustainability from the top of the organization. As I worked in sustainability, I began to see that sustainability and innovation were linked as key drivers for our future. In my role at GreenBlue, I have the opportunity to promote sustainability and the role it can play in reinventing corporate strategy. I believe in the power of the circular economy to provide economic growth without waste.
What advice do you have for other people (female or male) who aspire to be a captain of packaging?
Goodrich: I believe that the future is very exciting. Packaging plays a key role in our society and I believe it can be the pilot that moves us toward understanding the power of circular economies. My advice would be to incorporate a sustainable materials management approach into everything you do: Use wisely, promote material health and recover more.