Founded back in 1923, LC Packaging now has a presence across Europe, Asia, and Africa. We speak to Regional Director of Southern Africa, Richard Green, about the company’s long-standing central values and its growing environmental efforts.
The importance of incorporating greener business practices has never been so vital.
We are faced with global challenges; many businesses are evolving with sights set on the 2030 mark, while corporations and governments are looking towards the finality of the 2050 deadline. A long-standing player in the packaging industry, LC Packaging is driving company-wide change, revolving around people, environmental betterment and production efficiency to limit its impact on the planet.
However, the current decade has already proved to be one of volatility following the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as global conflict. It is events such as these that affect the ways that businesses plan for the future.
“The industry is unpredictable at the moment. We have both micro and macro issues to deal with and these issues certainly keep us on our feet,” begins Richard Green, Regional Director of Southern Africa at LC Packaging. “Having said that, we are fortunate to be faced with plenty of opportunities for growth and we are constantly finding new markets throughout Africa.”
LC Packaging is a family-owned company and international manufacturer and producer of flexible transport packaging solutions for (dry) bulk goods, with headquarters based in the Netherlands. The company has been active in the packaging industry since 1923 and has its own production facilities for flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs) and corrugated boards in Europe, Asia and Africa. Within the latter continent, LC Packaging has been active in South Africa (SA) since 2010.
The company’s location in Africa introduces a host of other continent-specific hurdles to overcome, on top of the global challenges outlined above.
“Country-level challenges have exacerbated already existent issues caused by international happenings like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine,” Green explains. “We have had two sets of extremely bad floods in SA, and this has had a tremendous impact on the supply chain, specifically with regard to our ports.
“Pre-COVID-19, there were already challenges for the ports in SA, especially as some of the world’s largest reserves of cobalt hydroxide -used in batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) – come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which in turn makes use of South African ports. This kind of demand and activity, combined with the various challenges in the country and beyond, has certainly impacted the supply chain and consequently businesses throughout SA. That is why we monitor the different ports around Africa closely, to make informed decisions about our port of choice to avoid congestion and decrease lead-times.”
LC Packaging has decided to bring sustainability to the core of the business and move from compliance to purpose, to truly make an impact and leave the world a better place for later generations to enjoy.
“Our ambition is to contribute to a world without waste: the waste of valuable products during storage and transportation, and packaging waste,” Green continues. “As a family business, we want to work in such a way that we do not limit the next generation in the choices they want to make or the resources they have available. By making it our mission to be a leader in sustainable packaging, we can achieve that impact.
“We believe in a future where sustainability is just as important and self-evident as quality and price,” Green adds. “By actively contributing to a world without waste, we add value to society on a local and global scale. Circular packaging solutions are one such example.”
LC Packaging has recently launched its 2030 ambition. Within this, the company identified three global issues that urgently need to be addressed and where LC Packaging can make a major impact: working poverty, circularity, and climate action.
“We have translated these issues into ambitious goals that we aim to achieve no later than 2030,” Green affirms. “With these goals, we contribute to the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) and increase the social and environmental value of our packaging.
“Our 2030 ambition will further aim to reduce the company’s total value chain emissions by 50 percent from base year 2021.”
In line with this environmental mindset and emission reduction, LC Packaging is currently incorporating an off-grid solar solution for its production facilities in SA, which is set to be implemented in Q1 of 2023.
“This use of solar and battery storage will greatly help to reduce our overall emissions,” Green says. “On top of this, we currently harvest rainwater which is used in our ablution facilities and thus reduces our municipal water consumption considerably.
“Our head office in the Netherlands has sufficient solar power generation that equates to over 500 houses, and the rainwater harvested from the roof of our warehouse in Waddinxveen is actually sent to local greenhouses to help there. So, this really is an important part of what we do, and remains a number one priority for the company at the moment. We are all passionate about leaving a positive legacy and a better world for generations to come.”
A CENTURY IN INDUSTRY
Supporting its environmental efforts, LC Packaging has always been led by customer-centric values that have been passed down through the decades, and that echo across all of the company’s operations, no matter the location.
In the 1920s, there were many bag traders in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. It was then that Wilhelmus Lammers, known as Wim, set up his own company and started trading in used jute bags, the predominant packaging material at the time.
Used jute bags were bought, cleaned, repaired if needed, and sold. Wim was certainly not the only one; he was more like one of many. But with tens of millions of bags traded every year, the market was by no means saturated. What is special is that the company he started in 1923 as NV Zakkenhandel v/h W. Lammers is still active nearly 100 years later.
“Whilst it has changed names to Lammers & Van Cleeff BV, and later to LC Packaging, the family-run business has grown into a multinational company with colleagues spread over Africa, Asia and Europe,” Green tells us. “The fourth Lammers generation is now in charge and our range of services has expanded considerably with new products and our own production facilities. In Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, we have a joint venture with Shankar Packagings India, which is known as LC Shankar.
“Yet, the soul of the company has never changed. Committed, reliable and loyal: those were the core values of the company back then, and they still are now. The jute bag is still one of our key products. The history of LC Packaging tells the story of bold entrepreneurship, close partnerships, vision, and honesty – always.”
COMMITMENT TO PEOPLE AND PLANET
LC Packaging’s customer centricity is key to its future, and the company is evaluating more manufacturing capacity in Africa with the goal to produce fabric locally within the next three years at the company’s new facility in Pietermaritzburg (SA).
“We go where our customers are,” Green tells us. “Phase one of the new facility, a 10,000 metre-squared custom-built factory has recently been completed. On top of this, we have also identified an African country of interest further north, and we are in the process of conducting an in-depth feasibility study, which is looking very positive at the moment.
“Countries in Africa require local partners and manufacturers, and so this is definitely a way forward when it comes to expanding and producing local fabric in the continent.”
For Green, one of the most critical points of focus for LC Packaging is energy. Amid the issues that stem from external elements and national situations, challenges such as the failure of the power grid in SA can also pose a threat to production, in which an interrupted energy supply can lead to ruined products and substantial waste as a result.
“Our solar focus will allow us to start up local manufacturing without a reliance on the national power grid, which is both better for the environment and production,” Green says. “Locally, we are looking at merging our distribution and production facilities. This would streamline many of our processes as well as eliminate certain admin duplications whilst also moving our B-BBEE level from a level seven to better than a level four.
“We are certainly keen to establish another production facility in Africa and we are in the middle of an in-depth feasibility study. This growth will lead the company forward in the coming years, carried by our commitment to people and the planet.”
Additionally, one of our ambitions is to be paying a living wage instead of a minimum wage to all our employees by 2030. We are very proud that we have already achieved this in SA.”