Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

January 22, 2016

5 Min Read
Sustainable packaging community to connect in Chicago

Wegmans. Ikea. Mars. SC Johnson. Carlsberg Group. Nestlé. Keurig Green Mountain. A virtual who’s who in sustainability and packaging will converge on the Windy City this spring for the 9th annual SustPack conference (Apr. 11-13; Chicago).

Organized in partnership with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Smithers Pira and Packaging Digest, this productive meeting tackles key issues and presents emerging solutions in areas as diverse as the circular economy, a return on investment (ROI), compostability, recycling, marine debris and ecommerce challenges.

Thought-provoking keynotes include:

• Ken Webster, head of innovation for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, who will talk about “What’s the Fit? Plastics, Packaging and a Circular Economy”;

• Lars Petersson, president in the U.S. for Ikea, speaking on “Investment and Innovation for a Low Carbon Future”; and

• Leyla Acaroglu, Ph.D., founder of The Un-School of Disruptive Design, who will present “Designing Change for Circular Systems.”

In addition to a powerful line up of more than 40 presentations, SustPack has arranged six different local tours that allows attendees to see behind the scenes at Method’s LEED Platinum Certified Southside Soap Factory, McCormick Place convention center, two leading Chicago museums, the Waste Management Willow Ranch composting facility and two craft breweries.

Barbara Fowler, conference director for U.S. events at Smithers Pira, gives us a preview of what to expect at this headliner event for sustainability and packaging.


Barbara Fowler

What are some of the exciting new experiences in store for attendees of SustPack 2016? Plus, the event is in Chicago this year instead of Orlando, where it has been for a while. Why the new location?

Fowler: SustPack goes to a major market like Chicago for the first time! Which means there are a lot of opportunities for visits around the city and expanded content in the event program and size of the event. We have in store attractive tours, multiple interactive workshops and fun networking opportunities in and outside the event at McCormick Place.

We will kick things off with the chief sustainability officer (CSO) of the City of Chicago followed by the president of IKEA USA, a company with a great reach that has committed to sustainability across its supply chain on a global basis. We’ve never had so many leading brands at the same time in the program! We will cover topics like the Glass Recycling Panel Session and the transformation in Aluminum that have not been covered before.

What a great line-up of local tours on Monday morning. How do attendees sign up for one of the six offered? Space is limited for each tour. Can attendees register a group of people at once? The tour is included in the conference fee this year, correct?

Fowler: We have organized the tours with the support of the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition and there’s something for everyone! Attendees can sign up for the tour of their choosing when they register for the conference (not as a group, but each person). Yes, tours are included in the conference fee this year.

How long are the workshops on Monday? At what time? Where? Who should attend these workshops?

Fowler: The three workshops on Mon., April 11, are from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m., meaning that attendees can go to one tour and one workshop on the same day because, for the first time, they don’t overlap.

Workshops are catered to different types of attendees. The Essentials of Sustainable Packaging by SPC is designed for newcomers to the world of sustainable packaging and provides a great perspective on the concepts, initiatives and where the industry is at right now; the workshop given by the design firm Kaleidoscope is for marketing, branding and business development roles who want to match their sustainability goals with their company’s perception; and the workshop given by Dr. Leyla Acaroglu is going to be a real treat and an inspiration to think about disruptive design in the light of the circular economy.

This is the second year for the educational and entertaining Trashies Awards program, which celebrates people, packages, processes, programs and partnerships in sustainability. Any changes in the competition this year? Is everyone invited to attend the presentation ceremony on Monday night?

Fowler: We have expanded the Trashies Awards and all the info can be now found on the SustPack website. Yes, all attendees are invited to the Award Ceremony that will be part of the Opening Reception.

The Tuesday morning session focuses on top brands: Keurig Green Mountain Coffee, Mars, Nestle and SC Johnson. Why are these particular case studies/best practices highlighted?

Fowler: Our goal was to showcase brands that have done a great job of sustainability goal setting and that are walking the talk of fulfilling these goals through different initiatives pertinent to their supply chain and product lines. We thought it would be an inspiring way of starting the conference with positive stories!

Tuesday afternoon has three different breakout tracks. Can attendees pick any track they want? Can they switch between tracks during the afternoon break if they want?

Fowler: Yes, we will have three breakout sessions and attendees are welcome to move around. Some of them have more than one session in the same breakout.

Is the “Dinner and Dialogue and Pub Crawl” scheduled for Tuesday night part of the attendance fee or is it extra?

Fowler: The Dinner and Dialogue is something SPC and Smithers Pira will be facilitating for attendees to participate in organized dinners led by an industry leader at each. We are selecting the best restaurants in Chicago. Each group will have seven places plus the leader, and each participant will pay for dinner on his or her own. For the Pub Crawl we will be organizing a trolley to transport people around a neighborhood of the city from pub to pub to foster camaraderie; this activity is also additional to the conference fee and attendees will pay just for the transportation and the drinks they have during the activity.

The early registration discount is good until Feb 16. Are there any other discounts available, perhaps for a group?

Fowler: We have group discounts when a team of the same company registers three or more people at the same time. We also have discounts for academics and government employees.

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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