Creating One Voice for Global Packaging

The new president of the World Packaging Organisation, Luciana Pellegrino, has taken office — the first woman in this role in the global body’s history. She shares her strategy and vision with Lindy Hughson, President, International Packaging Press Organisation.


This article originally appeared on page 12-13 of the PKN Packaging News Jan-Feb 2024 magazine.


It is two days before Christmas when I catch up with Luciana Pellegrino on a Zoom call. It’s evening-time in Brazil and, behind her, fairy lights are emanating cheery goodwill vibes from a decorated tree. The glow that captures my attention, though, is coming from Luciana herself. She is luminous the moment she starts talking packaging, her passion shining forth as she articulates her vision and goals with the strength and clarity you’d expect of such an accomplished leader in her field. Her conversation is refreshingly frank, but suffused with humility and grace that adds to the warmth in our virtual room.

Pellegrino is eminently qualified for the role, as a graduate in Business Administration specialising in Environmental Science, and with a Masters in Board of Directors Governance. In her day job, she is the general manager of the Brazilian Packaging Association (ABRE). She has been involved in the packaging industry since 1996, serving the World Packaging Organisation (WPO) for 20 years, with 15 of those in a vice president role, including as senior vice president marketing under the previous president, Australian Pierre Pienaar.

One of Pellegrino’s stated goals as president is to get the WPO closer to strategic market matters and packaging and consumer goods companies. “This connection with the industry will allow us to harmonise a global vision for the sector, always aiming to strengthen the sector and give power to WPO members to act positively in their countries.

“As president, and working closely with WPO’s board members and secretariat, I aim to strengthen WPO’s strategic partnerships with international bodies, to increase the participation at global events, conferences and trade shows, raising the voice of the packaging industry, and at the same time explore different key topics for the organisation and for the sector, such as governance, technology and innovation.”


Three Pillars

To date, WPO has centered much of its work around three core pillars: marketing, sustainability, and education.

On marketing, Pellegrino says, “In my term, I would like to expand our focus to build a strong marketing portfolio that will allow us to share knowledge with brands that, in turn, will help them unlock the value of packaging as a marketing tool.”

She says WPO has access to excellent examples of innovation coming through its WorldStar Packaging Awards programme, and this is also an indicator of current trends in packaging. She sees this awards programme, which has grown in success in recent years, as a rich resource that could be used to create helpful information for brands.

Sustainability and Packaging that Saves Food will remain a strong focus. Pellegrino acknowledges the tremendous amount of work that has been done by the team to date, with this portfolio headed by Australia’s Nerida Kelton.

“This topic is so crucial for our industry worldwide, we are already seeing proposals on new regulations to meet circular economy objectives coming through around the globe,” Pellegrino says. “WPO plays an important role in driving the change we need to see in all markets.” On this score, she says WPO is strengthening its partnership with Messe Dusseldorf and the Save Food programme, and is working on a position paper that will be published in collaboration with UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation).

And then there’s the crucial pillar of education. Pellegrino says she has plans to expand the already extensive list of education programmes even further.

WPO will continue to sponsor education programmes in member countries, sending international instructors to local communities to impart packaging knowledge.

“Complementing this will be the development of a series of online educational programmes, so that we can explore new topics in our industry — like smart packaging, new material innovation, and emerging technologies.”


Expanding Portfolios

In line with the rapid growth of WPO, both in numbers and in stature, Pellegrino’s strategy encompasses the creation, in the future, of three new portfolios within the organisation.

The first is Governance, increasingly required as WPO expands and formalises agreements with other organisations, which requires new procedures to be in place within WPO, and will create transparency on how WPO is conducting its business. She cites as an example the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with UNIDO, which sees WPO supporting UNIDO with packaging expertise, and for example, advising on building a national packaging body or a national packaging award programme in developing countries where UNIDO is managing different projects to foster local industries.

The second new portfolio is Innovation. Pellegrino explains, “The idea is that we can map innovation ecosystems so that we can see where the startups are located globally. What are they working on? What are the new technologies they are exploring? And with that, we can bring them closer to the industry. With that we can support innovation in our industry as well.”

“It’s vital that we know what technology is emerging around the globe …”

Technology is the third new portfolio. “It’s vital that we know what technology is emerging around the globe, and that we as WPO can have someone in place who can shed light on that packaging technology, so that new ideas can be shared around the world,” Pellegrino says.


Raising Packaging’s Voice

The overarching ambition encompassed by Pellegrino’s vision for her tenure is to raise the voice for packaging globally. This translates to participating in a meaningful way at strategically important global events, with WPO experts spreading the word on the true value that packaging has in improving the lives of the public.

A recent example of WPO participating at global events was its

Pellegrino notes that, typically, when packaging comes up in conversations, it’s emotionally charged around the subject of waste, without viewing it through a holistic or systemic lens.

“Everyone is talking about packaging, but the packaging industry is not talking about packaging and putting the complexity of packaging in perspective,” she says.

“We need to be having conversations that highlight how packaging is serving society and bringing efficiency and sustainability to supply chains, preventing food waste while keeping food safe.

“We need to be having conversations that highlight how packaging is serving society and bringing efficiency and sustainability to supply chains, preventing food waste while keeping food safe.”

“This is at the heart of my vision, that WPO creates one voice for packaging, sharing resources, sharing knowledge, so that as a global body we embrace the ideas of different members, unify the messages, and disseminate these to all countries.

“In doing so we will amplify our global impact. A stronger organisation with a stronger voice will support our members to do a greater job promoting packaging in their regions, to the benefit of society.”


Active Role

Pellegrino stresses the importance of WPO’s ongoing involvement on as many levels as possible with industry events, webinars, conferences, its WorldStar Packaging Awards programme, and producing its array of position papers and guideline documents.

One of the most successful guideline documents is the Packaging Design for Recycling Guide, which has now been translated into 11 languages, most recently Japanese.

It is worth recognising that the WPO team members contribute time to the cause on a voluntary basis. For Pellegrino, this is not an obstacle to achieving her ambitious goals for the organisation.

“Everyone who has been on the executive board, and those who will be taking on the vice presidency roles in the new portfolios, are so honoured to be doing this work. I believe they see this as an opportunity for themselves to fulfill their potential and making a greater impact in their region and for the global packaging community.

“I have been volunteering for 20 years because I am a packaging passionate, and I strongly believe the WPO can make a difference to help the world meet the sustainability challenges we face.”

Pellegrino concludes: “It is an honour and a privilege to now be able to lead the WPO forward, to create a stronger organisation and build an inclusive platform that allows participation from all members in all corners of the globe — for the betterment of society.”