Today, the delegates spent their morning at MeadWestvaco led by Bruce V. Thomas, the president of MeadWestvaco Healthcare. First, Dave Ryan, the chief financial officer for MeadWestvaco’s packaging platform and Collegiate father of four, gave a presentation where he discussed the company itself. MeadWestvaco, a Fortune 500 company with sales totaling $5.5 billion, has over 16,000 employees in 30 companies, and 49% of its revenue comes from outside of the United States. Furthermore, 25% of MeadWestvaco’s revenue derives from emerging markets, making this company especially relevant to the International Emerging Leaders Conference. Mr. Ryan asked the question, “What do the customer and consumer need to be successful?” Indeed, this question applied not only to MeadWestvaco’s work, but also the Ambassadors’ environmental projects. In addition, Mr. Ryan discussed MeadWestvaco’s mission to find the balance between “how [they do] things responsibly [and] bring value to [their] customers, [while also] making money.” However, Mr. Ryan also encouraged the Ambassadors to consider packaging a valuable facet of their project, for “Packaging is the ultimate media platform for reach and frequency, [and] a dynamic packaging brand strategy helps define and reinforce a brand’s essence and character.”
Next, Mr. Thomas spoke to the participants of the International Emerging Leaders Conference about MeadWestvaco’s work in regions outside of North America and Western Europe. Mr. Thomas encouraged the Ambassadors,
“As you spend the day with us today, think about how many times you hear us talk about, or think about, or try to push what we do and how we do it so that it really does make a difference in people’s lives.”
Mr. Thomas also spoke to the employment policy of MeadWestvaco, where they focus on “[asking] people to do something where they feel like they are not just making money, not just making a career, but are [also] helping people.” Mr. Thomas asked the Ambassadors to be MeadWestvaco packaging innovators for the morning, assigning them with the task of identifying issues within the regions of Africa, the United States, China, India, South America, and Eastern Europe. Highlighting the importance of MeadWestvaco’s global perspective, Mr. Thomas said, “If [MeadWestvaco] as an organization [is] not participating in the [growing] parts of the world, [MeadWestvaco has] zero chance of completing the growth goals that Dave outlined.”
Finally, Alejandro Cedeno, the Vice President of Global Innovation, discussed MeadWestvaco’s personal interpretation of the word innovation. “Innovation is not always invention… the biggest thing about innovation is that innovation includes creativity; it includes invention; innovation, from a corporate standpoint, is to take those ideas and make money,” said Mr. Cedeno. Specifically, MeadWestvaco “[discovers] insights, and [uses] them to create innovative solutions which address unmet or unarticulated packaging needs.” Lastly, Mr. Cedeno advised the Ambassadors to “focus on the what before [they] get to the how.”
After the presentations, the International Emerging Leaders split into groups to practice MeadWestvaco’s creative process. For example, one group, tasked with considering problems in China, decided to focus on Chinese issues involving food preservatives. Their solution: Tetris-like milk jugs, which would be usable both as individual cartons and puzzle-like combinations, thus a major answer to questions of portion control. Thus, the Ambassadors spent an hour working with MeadWestvaco employees to find solutions for each region’s problems, then presented their ideas to the group as a whole. Another interesting solution was that of the United States group, who designed a paper bag with jute handles and infrastructure, to fix the problem of weak paper bags in grocery stores. MeadWestvaco definitely sent the Ambassadors away with many new ideas and perspectives to consider in their environmental projects!