CVS and Quad Outline Sustainability Roadmap at SPC Impact

May 9, 2022

Paul Nowak, Quad’s VP of Segment Development — Sustainability, and Matt Thorsen, Director of Store Brand Packaging for CVS Health, together shared a vision for how organizations can do better for the planet while driving business results at April’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s flagship event, SPC Impact 2022, in San Francisco.

They presented “The Concept of Change Management — Lift and Shift,” which focused on doing better for the planet while driving business results.

But even before their conversation began, Thorsen admitted sustainability was not originally a focus of his in his role as director of packaging at CVS Health. “When sustainability started to gain traction nationally, I was asked to add it to my goals. It’s now engrained into who I am and the work I do every day.”

Thorsen immediately connected with an audience facing the same challenges: How to drive enterprise sustainability goals through packaging solutions.

Thorsen and Nowak landed on several takeaways to help others make progress on organizational sustainability goals. It starts by keeping it simple and communicating in a way that’s accessible and relatable for colleagues and teams within the organization.

“The concept of ‘lift and shift’ is about getting the best people in the room; taking what they do well every day; and applying it to sustainability to accelerate everything that needs to be done,” Nowak said. “And we at Quad are having some success with it.”

Model for making sustainable progress

To bring it to an operational level, Nowak and Thorsen shared how CVS Health works with internal teams, suppliers, and external partners like Quad to achieve CVS’s 2030 sustainability goals.

Don’t start the discussion with “sustainability.” It’s a topic that takes time for many people to get their minds around, specifically in how it relates to a business’s bottom line. “It’s about how to engage people,” Paul said. “Language matters.”

Look at sustainability through the lens of what your company already does well. A classic example: Many organizations have processes for continuous improvement. They take a process or procedure and make it better by looking at waste, costs and opportunities for improvement. It’s easy to include the concept of sustainability in such discussions to help meet those overall objectives.

Focus on what you can control, then scale to impact an industry. Thorsen noted that it’s not an overnight process. Challenges include:

  • Sustainable initiatives need to keep consumer prices reasonable
  • Retailers with store brands face industry constraints
  • Retailers don’t own the entire process — partners and vendors make packaging for multiple customers

The bottom line: That means CVS cannot simply dictate to suppliers that they want their packaging to be sustainable. There need to be solutions that work for suppliers and customers across the entire industry.

The future begins now

Thorsen explained that CVS Health has can organizational roadmap of 20 to 30 sustainability goals with individual leaders across business units. That’s the game changer for turning talk into progress.

“I like seeing a roadmap,” Thorsen said “We’ve been working with Quad on [these goals] for up to a year, and I know we can get there now.

“This is complicated—but the team is completely behind it,” he said. “I love the idea of understanding what the other people in the room are feeling and how we bring them along. Everyone needs to come along on the journey.”

To learn more about the “Lift and Shift” model for developing a sustainability roadmap, watch the full interview here.