‘Helping to shape the conversation’

On the subject of change from within the industry, let’s briefly go back to the above-mentioned challenge facing start-ups; specifically, the slow pace of corporates in long-established industries vs. the speed required for a start-up to get off the ground. Is this a common tension for new companies, regardless of their specialization?

“Yes, I would say so,” say Jordi de Vos. “Start-ups have to prove things quickly if they are to succeed. But even negotiating a contract with large players can take months, which for a company like ours is not good. That’s why as a start-up you are obliged to be selective about who you do business with in the beginning.”

We’re also interested to know his views on the kind of support available to young companies seeking to have a disruptive effect. Is it sufficient, or does industry need new models to address this?

“We are basically seeing a big gap in funding and support, from ideas to execution to new venture partners. That’s what we describe as the ‘value gap’ for start-ups. Investors are coming in at later and later stages and want to see more security and more recurring revenue before they commit, which is a problem. I hope that in the future corporates will come together and try to fill the gap in investment. If this happened, I think we would begin to see a lot more innovation happening.”

Fresh voices are increasingly helping to shape the conversation around sustainability. By nature, says Mr de Vos, they can be more disruptive because they have less ‘baggage’ to carry and long-standing clients to please.

And blockchain is just one of the building blocks of a circular economy. In the coming months we will be hearing from a range of other start-ups from different segments of the packaging industry, to get a clearer picture of the specific challenges they face and how they feel innovation can be better nurtured.

One thing we are sure of: while the long-term experience of the big corporates is of course invaluable, getting a new, ‘younger’ perspective on the global environmental problems we all face is vital – whether that’s from industry, politics or grassroots activism. (As the glowing example of Greta Thunberg, for one, has shown us.)