Jon Williams of Alliance Paper:

Buying Australian for health, the economy and the environment

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Jon Williams of Alliance Paper, a manufacturer of various paper products and a distributor of food-grade bio-packaging material.

Jon’s been in the printing industry all his life, and in recent years, he’s driven the business’s focus on creating better products from both an environmental and health perspective. We’d talk about the business, his thoughts about the paper industry and even the impact of the current Covid-19 crisis.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Jon Williams of Alliance Paper.

Companies, Organisations and Products Mentioned in this Podcast:

Alliance Paper
Sustain Paper
Planet Ark


Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange
Produced by Jonny Puskas
Theme Music by Joseph McDade
All Rights Reserved 2020

Full Transcript

This transcript has been modified for clarity.


T: Tammy Ven Dange, Host
J: Jon Williams, Managing Director of Alliance Paper

About Rollo Wrap

T: Jon, welcome to the show.

J: Thank you.

T:  I first became interested in your company when I was reading about Planet Ark’s endorsement of your Rollo Wrap Product.  First of all, can you tell us a little about what that product is?

J: It’s actually a substitute for conventional food grade wraps.  During a process about four years ago when we were traveling overseas and looking at alternative paper products for our converting business, we came across a product that had been developed but had not been commercialised with a paper mill in Europe.

J:  In discussion with them it became very obvious that they had a very good, unique product that was being manufactured using some quite specialised resources and more materials.  But it hadn’t really been developed in the marketplace. 

J: The Rollo Wrap brand is a brand that we developed as we commercialised that product of theirs and launched it here in Australia.  We were delighted to get involved with Planet Ark and it was a series of ongoing discussions, but it very quickly became apparent that there was something quite different about what our product could do in their alignment with us.  So, it’s quite exciting.

T: So, how do you actually use Rollo Wrap?

J: Rollo Wrap is a range of paper products that are made from virgin pulp grown specifically in trees for application to this particular product, and it’s coated with a range of vegetable starches.  Those starches and the ways they are physically coated onto the paper are quite unique. 

J: What that means is we now have a product that can be applied across food packaging, bag making, sandwich wrapping, pretty much any application where a conventional, chemically coated paper might be used. 

J: That is probably the single biggest difference between the Rollo Wrap brand and many of the other products on the market now.  There is no chemical coating and it’s actually using natural, vegetable starches.  What that means is that not only is it biodegradable, but it’s also completely natural and it will compost.

T:  Is this like wax paper that you might use when you are baking something?

J: You can use it for baking applications.  It is quite applicable to putting down a roast or some cookies in an oven application. It is just as happy going in the microwave or going around the kid’s lunches for argument’s sake.  The product itself does not contain any wax.  Wax products are petrochemical based invariably unless there can be natural bees wax products, but they’re quite expensive to secure now for food wrapping.

J: (Bees wax) products can be washed and reused and that’s a great product option, but they are expensive and they’re not necessarily commercially realistic.  Wax paper as we know it now predominantly tends to be a chemical coat that’s petrogenic.

T: Can the average consumer purchase your product or is it mostly just focused on restaurants and cafes?

J: The distribution program is now being developed and launched more broadly in Australia.  It has taken some time to set those things in place.  Obviously the current circumstance makes it a little difficult for some of the one and one and face to face communications involved in these processes, but we now have this product available through our own online shop at Alliance Paper.  And there is a series of endorsements that sit behind it with some of the other products and groups that support it on Planet Ark.

T: Fantastic!  I can think of at least one café locally that would be very interested in your products. 

Commercialising the Idea

T: When we talk about commercialising an idea that you found overseas, what exactly did you have to do to make it a feasible product to sell here locally?

J: The first thing was to really understand what was unique about the product and why it would actually present as a point of difference.  I think there are a lot of people out there, in business, in the home environment, and commercial catering applications that are familiar with and are constantly using plastic.  More and more now they are becoming realistic about the fact that that product isn’t perhaps as good or as healthy for the environment or their own application as they perhaps might think it could be or should be. 

J: When we looked at that and we started to talk to people, it was where is this product? Why is it different? And, where do we take it?  It has taken us a lot longer than I would’ve preferred to actually physically have gotten the product into our distribution channel, but I’d have to say that there’s also been a lot of push back.  People talk about wanting to do the right thing for the environment, quite prepared to find an alternative. 

J: But it’s amazing when you take them a product and say, this is an alternative to perhaps using plastic or a plastic-type application, and the first thing most of them say is, “well would it be half the price, or we’re not interested”.  So working through those things is actually really quite important and fundamental to building a basis where you can start from and then grow.  It’s a long process that unfortunately even though there is a lot of energy at the moment around a need for change and sustainability, people still take time to make change.

Recyclability of Rolowrap

T: When we talk about paper, specifically from a recycling perspective, I know where my parents live in the United States, they are no longer recycling paper.  They’ll take cardboard, but they won’t take paper.  And while here in Australia, most councils will still allow paper recycling.  Is this particular product that you have, recyclable as well?

J:  Yes!  Because there is no chemical or poly-applications to the paper it will recycle.  Paper coating with natural starches will break down.  Biodegradability is not a word that everyone is particularly comfortable with from the point of view of the standards around recyclability, and it’s probably a buzzword that’s got a lot of noise around it for all the wrong reasons over time.

J: The simple fact is that paper is made from natural product and it can be coated with things, meaning it will not break down rapidly.  Packing these days has become so requiring of vivid brightness, reflective applications, heavy varnished.  Anything that is varnished will not break down, will not compost, and so it is not recyclable and is one of the reasons so many countries have set the standards around and met globally and these some of the things we have been looking at while we have been developing these products over the last several years.

The Barrier Range

T:  I was just looking at your website and your barrier plus product, I can see you have coffee cups there which right now coffee cafes will not take a reusable cup.  It seems like you are in a great place to extend the recycle / biodegradable compostable type of paper product when it is not feasible to use a reusable one.

 J:  You are absolutely correct.  The barrier range has both a water and oil capability around it and has water vapour and grease proof capability and it is also heat sealable, so what that allows us to do is have it applied in many applications. 

J: We don’t make cups.  We make rolls of paper that are applicable in a variety value add area.  The product now is being applied into specialist that do actually make cups, that do make bags, that make patty pans – that are bakery items. So, there is a massive opportunity for this raw material to be used across a range of products and markets.

T:  It would be very interesting to know after this craze of the COVID-19 crisis is over if there is a huge uptake on these types of products because it seems like a logical transition if it is going to be harder to use our reusable cups. 

How did Jon get involved in Alliance Paper

T: Why don’t we talk more about how you got involved in Alliance Paper.  I know you are also involved in Sustain Paper now too.  Tell us how more about it.

J:  Alliance is a company that has been in business for an excess of 36 years now.  It was a family owned company, and I came across them when I was running one of the competitors, believe it or not.  And the business was owned by one individual, and he choose to semi-retire from the operation.

J: I got involved in an acquisition that did not transpire the way that we wanted it to, but I formed a good working relationship with Peter, and we have taken it from there.  He resides overseas most of the time, and I operate the business.  It’s an exciting and thriving business, and I believe one of our biggest assets is our people and our customers. There is a great deal of knowledge around how we think differently around the way a product is used. 

J: Alliance Paper has always been a converter of paper products.   We’ve made rolls for till / cash register receipts and still supply probably 65% of the Australian market with that product.  But we also have been involved in re-selling products for stationary lines and stationary items.  We have always had a focus on paper and from there the transition from Sustain Paper as a paper wholesale company was all about being able to take the next step with sustainable products. 

J: Let’s face it, there is always a life cycle and a time for products, for arguments sake thermal paper, but the opportunity to take all that knowledge we’ve got and broaden their opportunities and broaden the opportunities of the marketplace by looking at how we take a product range and deliver that to the market.  Not necessarily for us to convert or make a value-added product but to provide it to companies that are specialists in that market.  

Buying Australia

J: There’s no point in reinventing the wheel, the cost of capital these days, these investment that is required and the life cycle of a product that a very expensive exercise, but manufacturing needs to be kept in Australia. 

J: I think we are starting to see some of these challenges now more than we probably have in the last 15-20 years.  We have an opportunity through Alliance and Sustained to provide product to a broader range of manufacturing companies here in Australia, and other companies abroad, as well. 

T:  I absolutely think that buying Australia is loud and proud at the moment, and hopefully consumers will recognise that is going to be a change in price if things are made here just because of fair wages.

BPA in thermal rolls

T: I want to go back and discuss your thermal rolls.  For those who are not familiar with that term, it is basically the receipt paper that comes out of the till or the checkout when you are buying something with a credit card or cash.  I noticed that you guys got involved in Planet Ark some time ago, and it was actually around this particular product.  Do you want to talk a little bit more about that?

J:  It’s probably more relevant now than ever before.  For many years manufacturing has dropped off in Australia, and prices have been driven by a benchmark standard against the imported product.  Australia has had significant volumes of cheaper products coming into the Australian market from China and the like.  One of the challenges of that is there are no standards applied to how products are made, in Asia.  What that means is that we wind up having grades of paper used and applied to customer applications that don’t make the standard. 

J: Back in 2019, a significant change was starting to roll out in Europe and across many states in the U.S where BPA – that basic plastic bonding product that is used inside cans, part of baby formula bottles, and drink bottles for some time.  Many people may remember that there was a noise about BPA and it was banned, it’s actually quite nasty, you had very nasty side effects. 

J: And while this was becoming a focus point in Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank got behind this program and started to focus on phasing out BPA in thermal paper as a product line, and BPA is actually a Phenol product, and they have now moved to eradicate phenol coatings as well. 

J: As part of our assessment as to where the market was heading, we sat down with Planet Ark and talked about what are the risks, what are the issues and recognized what Planet Ark has done in Australia and the profile they had we decided to work with them on launching the BPA free and Phenol Free range of thermal papers under their banner.

T:  So, basically these receipt rolls had this plastic coating on them, which was BPA specifically. It seems that every time one of us took the receipt or the cashier was collecting those receipts for their own business purposes, they are touching this BPA every time.  It has to be horrible for your health.

J:  Well, it is.  BPA is actually a really small molecule so it’s easily absorbed through the skin.  And why it is even more important right now is that things like moisture and hand sanitizer actually escalate the process of absorption into the body, into the dermal layer.  And from there it is an endocrine inhibitor.  It actually has some nasty side effects.  Not in everybody, but in certain individuals, where their metabolism, their endocrine system, is more readily attacked.  What occurs is that the absorption rate increases when moist or hand sanitized hands come in contact with thermal paper that contains BPA or Phenol.

T:  So, they have already banned this in Europe?

J:  Yes.

T: Is it banned in Australia?

J:  That is a very good question and the short answer is regrettably, no. 

T:  Wow

J:  And the best thing that we can do is – all of our customers use BPA free products and many are phasing out BPA and moving towards using a Phenol free (too).  There is an obviously a cost impost when you compare it against the benchmark products from China that has no legislation behind it whatsoever.  So, once again, Australia has missed out on what could have an insolation on this because we rely so much on imports, and we don’t manufacture as much as we should or could in Australia. 

T:  Yeah.  But also, the health consequences for workers could potentially be high without knowing that they could be at risk. 

J:  It’s deeply concerning. When we came across this issue and examined it in detail with the paper mills and many of paper mills and enterprises in Europe going back now to 2017, we made a decision at a board level and, at a senior management level.

J:  We needed to reengineer our workflow with our business where we had contact with this product.  We had a capacity to insulate our risk around our staff, our personnel.  That was the first thing.  Then the knock-on effect was who else is touching it – and it’s the customers and their end users as well. 

J: We have been working, and Planet Ark has been fantastic and has been part of this and certainly the level of awareness has been raised.  It takes time to roll these things out.  It takes time to secure the right product.

J: But again, you have to have people who are willing to look and listen and not just look at the price difference because there is pricing difference.  From a standard BPA free variance of about 7%, it’s about the same as when you go to a phenol free paper.  So those numbers are now evening themselves out as the standard product is no longer available and not from the reliable and recognisable mill. 

T:  And with import costs right now more than doubling, I imagine you guys are doing OK right now with being competitive for a while.

J:  Well, we obviously have our lead times on these products out 6 to 8  months, so we have long term orders, and we manage that process. But pricing on these items, currency is the issue at the moment. But who knows where the world economy is going to settle in the next 3 to 6 months and how long this actually continues, but the main thing is that there is an alternative out there, and it has been viable for quite some time, for making sure people remain healthy. 

 Creating a circular economy with thermal roll cores.

T:  Before we roll off, excuse the pun, roll off thermal rolls, I also noticed that you are reusing the cores.  So, tell us more about that and is Planet Ark involved in collecting them?

 J:  No. The project is endorsed by them as far as supportive, but it is an initiative that we developed that really came about – it’s really quite funny, it came about (while watching) good old Nespresso collecting the pods that is involved with making their coffee.  The observation, actually it was my wife’s observation – why can’t you do something like this with your cores? 

J: And a core costs a couple of cents, not a lot, but that core if it was a cardboard core, goes into waste and that won’t break down. It will take 15 -20 years to break down because of how cardboard core is made.  It just layers and layers of paper that are glued together.  The paper will break down, but not if it is coated in adhesive. 

J: So, what we started to do some years ago, was to put a plastic core.  I use the term plastic as a generic term.  We run a recycled material into the core now.  A poly propylene that itself is made from a recycled material, old car parts, if you like.  And we use it to make it into a roll of paper and we have a process where customers can send their cores back to us, prep them, and reuse them. 

T:  Fantastic.  It’s actually a great example of a closed loop of taking your products back and being to do something with them. 

J:  It’s the circular economy working to perfection really, isn’t it?

T:  Absolutely. 

Impact of Covid-19 to Business

T: Let’s talk a little bit about the business impact of Covid-19 because certainly almost all businesses are being impacted for better or worse right now.  Are you guys being impacted by all of the preventive measures and changes?

J:  Like all responsible business, we’ve got a series of procedures in place.  We provide products to almost all of the Australia’s leading supermarket groups, and many of the retailers who are still open.  We also support financial institutions and medical groups. So as a result, we are sort of second tier in that critical path.  So, fortunately, our business is allowed to continue.

J: We have set new processes in place.  We wipe all surfaces in the factory environment everyone 2 hours.  Social distancing, obviously, is a function of day to day process.  Business supervisors and all floor staff work around these conditions.  Our workplace meetings are held under those conditions as well. 

J: And just from an office perspective, I currently have all my sales team running remote, working from home, and we catch up a couple of times a day.  It’s just the way you’ve got to run your business.  I think this is really going to redefine how business is done in Australia, and perhaps, globally in the coming months. It certainly has been significant. 

J: It hasn’t impacted us, apart from process and amendments. It’s the day to day function indirectly.  Managing those, managing the disinfecting side of things on a daily basis.  It’s manageable, but it’s different.

Potential longer-term impacts

T:  I wonder if down the road, you might not see it right away, given that some of these stores are using contactless transactions – you use your Pay Wave credit card to buy it and now most of the time people are saying they don’t want the receipt. So it will be curious to see if that impacts you in terms of the amount of paper that people actually need.

J:  I don’t like it when people say that. I always take one, and I encourage family to do so as well, and all of my friends, because it keeps me in a job.  I guess the reality is that pay systems, in this country, are not yet as advanced as we want or think they are. Having said that, I think what a lot of what our banks have done in Australia is at the cutting edge of any other countries. 

J: They haven’t yet agreed on a payment platform, and until that occurs, there is always going to be these discrepancies of “do I take a receipt, how do I actually prove this and what if the system goes down and where do I get a copy or receipt of the payment.” 

J: Yes, it appears on your statement, but if you want to take your statement into the store and argue if you paid for it on that date and what process you paid for it with.  There are a lot of things about payment systems that are not yet fool proof, idiot proof.  And the best alternative is to have a receipt.

T:  Yeah

J:  I think the cash economy is certainly changing significantly. We talk about BPA being a contact. Think about those people who take those BPA receipts and put them in their wallet alongside those cash notes they’re using.  Every time they touch those notes, one of the biggest transmitters of BPA, (according to) one of the studies that was done last year in the U.S., is actually cash.

T:  Oh!

J:  More BPA is contained on the cash that was being transmitted around the marketplace than on any individual wallet or purses or whatever. And it was because the fact that it is in contact with the paper while it was in someone’s wallet or purse. 

T:  Wow.

The end of paper receipts?

J:  There is definitely a re-think about what is happening around receipts.  The technology and platforms, does that platform work – there are several different things that will impact on that. Hopefully, based on how the market has moved over the last 5 or 6 years, my belief is that there is still 10 more years of market space for a paper receipt as the best and only process. 

J: Another thing that comes into play is the age of the population.  My kids wouldn’t know the idea of a receipt and don’t like the idea of a receipt because it is something they have to worry about.  They just keep it on their phone, but when their phone goes wrong or dies and they have to replace it, then their world ends.  People my age tend to like the idea of a receipt, I guess. 

T:  Well, businesses still need it for the transactions as well.  

J:  There’s definitely that. 

More about Jon

T:  I want to talk more about your future plans because you did mention a 10-year horizon there.  Before we do that, Jon, can we just go back and talk about your own background?

T:  When I look at the company’s history for Alliance, a lot of the environmentally friendly initiatives have happened during your time there.  What made you interested in making products that were more environmentally friendly and also sourcing some that were too.

J:  I always believe in honesty, so I will answer that question honestly as confronting as it might be.  I had a personal battle with health about 6 years ago and the impact of what caused my issue was directly related to exposure to chemicals in industry. 

T:  Wow.

J:  And it changes the way you think about your own mortality, but also the impact you might have on other people and what else is being used in the industry.  You work in what you are passionate about.  I have been in printing all of my life, and I guess that did focus elements what it was that we needed to change.

Safer workplaces first

J: One of the first things I came this company as it is with every other company I’ve been to, was to get rid of as many of the isopropyl alcohol-based products out of the manufacturing processes as quickly as we could. 

J: It is a known carcinogen, and there are several other things that are issues.  But then we started to look further into what else was an impact, what else was the risk to our staff, what was the risk more broadly. Then you can’t help but get caught up in why these things are important and how they need to change. 

J: And it might only be a small element of what is involved, but it has driven my focus on making sure that we do everything we possibly can and are responsible about that from the trade specific side of things but also the public perspective.

From health to environmental issues

T:  From there, looking at the health focus at first, but you have obviously looked at the environment impact as well.

J:  They flow from each in my view.  My brother is an environmental health specialist, an environment and health specialist, I should say.  When you look at the impact of so many things, paper is always recognised as a significant contributor to waste.

J: In the last 3 years, Australia has had to take a good hard look at itself and how it treats waste, how it manages waste.  And we could not ignore that we were a contributor to that.  Receipt paper as it stands – any commercial consumable paper do wind up ultimately in landfills.  They are not going to China waste management programs. All that stopped a couple of years ago. 

J: But it has been a growing problem.  I would be remiss, as an MD (managing director), if I wasn’t looking at what was the impact that will ultimately have on our business.  I believe we all have a responsibility to look at it and think like that.

Business customers are more interested in environmental concerns too

J:  I think the other thing that is interesting, to balance that a little bit –  3 years, when we were talking to our customers, we were talking to purchasing and procurement people.  We are now talking to sustainability people.  I think that is a big difference in the way our customers, more broadly businesses are now looking at its responsibility, it’s role, in part of this total package. 

T:  Well, we did an interview with Officeworks the other day on this show and it was really interesting that Ryan Swenson, a former buyer, is now the Head of Sustainability there.  So, yes, the two do go hand in hand now.  People in small businesses and large businesses are looking at their impact when they buy now.

J:  Yes.  And I would hope passionately that the level of energy and engagement and more broad outlook as well as an inward view continues when the world gets back to a new normality after this post Covid-19.  We’ve got an opportunity; we’ve seen a way and personally we’ve seen a new push around this since November of last year (2019). 

J: We felt to some extent it was a bit of a battle in the 2 year’s prior to that.  Everyone wanted to talk about it, but no one actually wanted to do anything.  And there now seems to be a greater level, in the past 4 or 5 months, a much greater level of uptake and engagement with being able to understand the expectation, input to how that can be managed within their particular business or environment and then determine what are the solutions and get on board with it.  That has slowed down now with Covid-19.  I hope passionately that reengages in the months ahead in the new normality. 

T:  I think one of the reminders to people is that while this will eventually settle, the plastic and waste issues that we see out there will still continue for centuries if we don’t do something now about them.

J:  Yeah, yeah.  I was fortunate enough to be at the Plastic Summit, a couple of months ago.

T:  Me too!

J:  Great.  And there was a lot of people there, and I am sure you got the same sense of engagement that seemed to be prevalent across everybody that we spoke with.  I met with people I have seen before and dealt with before and made some new contacts.  And in talking to them, it’s been much of the same noise that I have been getting back, which is there is a level of engagement. 

J: We can’t expect government to do this.  Industry has to drive this.  Industry has to own this, and that means the sustainability people and procurement people, managing directors and CEOs, board members, and shareholders, all have to be engaged in making the change and they have to recognize at some point that there may be a cost to do that.  Probably more so now than there was 6 months ago courtesy of what we are dealing with on a global scale. 

J: We have to look after our planet.  We have to look after our local economy.  We have to look after our local environment, and we have to look after our people.  And every single one of those people in the buying process, the hiring process, the paying process, all have to be engaged with that at a high level.  It’s coming. It’s just going to take time. 

 Future Plans

T:  Given that you’re in the paper business, I’m really curious to hear, with that sustainability mind-set that you have, it is still going to impact your business, somehow.  So, what are you guys doing for the future?  What are you thinking about in terms of your future plans?

 J:  It’s like any business.  Particularly in services business where product that you are delivering a service through has a finite life or an applicable life that is determined by the factors that you cannot control or influence. We are clearly in that space.  It’s as much about understanding the customers as much, in our view, as determining what are the opportunities to broaden the offering.

J: We are a paper converting company, and we have millions and millions of dollars tied up in equipment that converts paper.  But it doesn’t have to convert paper.  Ten years ago, this business was looking at converting plastics. We didn’t go down that path.  I wasn’t involved at the time, but I am very glad we didn’t go down that path. 

J: But a substrate is a substrate, whether it’s a piece of plastic or a piece of paper.  Or it’s another product that is being developed out of a completely unique set of circumstances.  Like our barrier range, for heaven’s sake.  Yes, it’s a pulp product, but it’s got a vegetable-based coating on it.  There are ways and means of adapting machines and manufacturing processes to apply themselves to a multiple range of opportunities.

J: It’s a case of asking questions.  It’s a case of working closely with customers and product development people where what was perhaps a plastic product 2 years ago will ultimately be a natural product in 2 years’ time.  It’s still going to need to be converted. 

J: So, it’s a case of being flexible, a case of being adaptable. And being in conversation with people who are decision makers and drivers of opportunity and that sometimes means also being able to engineer or modify a machine because the cost of capital that is required these days and the return on investment that sits behind it is making it harder and harder for manufacturing companies to remain ahead of the curve.

T: There are so many businesses right now being impacted by the preventative measures around Covid-19 that a lot of them are already thinking about some sort of pivot anyway.  You see that with the distillers turning around and making hand sanitisers, or 3D printers suddenly making medical equipment.

J: Respirators, yeah.

T: Yeah, so you see that happening already and I was just thinking that you guys might have to change your name.  So that it’s not so paper focused, because as you say the processes are very similar if you want to use a bio-paper instead that is perhaps made out of wheat or seaweed.

J: Hemp. There is nothing that stops it from being any of those product options.  The papers that we are talking about in the Barrier, Nature and Guardian range, they are all water soluble. They will break down water.  There was never a thought that those types of products would be part of our daily remit going back 5 years even, but that’s the nature of the products we are dealing with. 

J: And these are all reflections of manufacturing at a raw material perspective looking at what the market is demanding. As a converter, we are the middle guy that is basically able to add value to that product.  That is the only reason why we have to keep in contact with the customers to develop solutions that are applicable to particular needs.

T: Because of the fact that you are so interested and concerned about both the health and environmental impacts of your own business that you’re probably a good two steps ahead of most of your competitors who are still in denial that this is a problem. So, you guys will probably be ok compared to some of your competitors because of that.

J: I would love to take that to the bank.  Thank you for that, Tammy.  But I would also have to say that one of the things that I am continually reminded of is that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  Some of what we have done with pioneering the BPA and push around the Phenol free has actually finally pushed our competitors to do exactly the same thing. 

J: And that’s great because the more of that product change that occurs, the better and healthier our customers, their customers, and the planet is going to be from what we can impact.  We might not see the benefit from all that, (but) other people do within the industry, they’re probably watching what we’re doing and that’s fine.  So long as they do it right.

Greenwashing – how do you know what they say is true?

T: Certainly, some green washing in this space.

J: Oh, don’t start me on that.  I’m not allowed to talk about that.  My staff and my board get annoyed when I get on the bandwagon of greenwashing and there has certainly been plenty of it. I just hope that at some stage in the future, perhaps this will come out of the post Covid-19 days, that there’s some naming and shaming because what’s occurred in several segments in the market is just atrocious. 

J: And it makes it hard for the consumer, “is this a product that really does what it says it’s going to do, does it give me those benefits?”  There is a lot of misinformation, and people make what they thought were good decision when in fact, they haven’t been good decisions at all because the information has been inaccurate.

T:   I’ll tell you personally just wanting to have this conversation with you was driven by your relationship with Planet Ark because they are a trusted brand in this space.  And without that endorsement of sorts, I wasn’t sure if I should talk to you. 

T: So, those kind of relationships where you have kind of third party endorsement do provide some certainty for people that want to make sure they are buying the right products and are doing the right thing for the environment not just because people have it on their label, but because they’ve actually been tested.

J: And that process has been integral to coming back from Europe in 2017 and acknowledging that this was something that was different from anything we had looked at previously. We put a specific strategy around it, and we talked about what that might look like and how we can be involved in it and what we can do. 

J: And it was funny because Planet Ark was the first name that floated to the top very quickly and was the one that was the most involved and I felt added the most value to the opportunity of making this more publicly registered.

T: Definitely a great organisation. We have talked about them a few times. I’ll have to get Paul, their CEO onto the show eventually.

J:  He loves a chat!  Paul is passionate about his team and what they do, and they’ve got some really good people in there.  And one of the things that has made it easier for us has been the fact that we get to work with people who have got similar values, outlooks, and views. Let’s face it you do your best work with people that are on the same page as you.  It’s been a journey for all of our staff and my team to get engaged with that level and it’s a good working relationship.

T: It sure sounds like it.

Buying Australian to support the local economy

T: Jon, do you have any advice or requests from our listeners?

J: Buy Australian.  Support Australian businesses. We are all going to need it.  Manufacturing in this country is something that has unfortunately fallen by the wayside and no single government can take full responsibility for that or will.

J:  What we’ve got to do now as collective individuals is demonstrate the support that is important, and we have to support Australian businesses that are manufacturing product in Australia.  We can’t all make product here, but we can certainly convert or prepare, or value add to product in Australia that comes from overseas. 

J: What we’ve got to do is work out how we can employ as many Australians and provide support for those businesses as we can.  Many people are going to lose their jobs on a long-term basis.  Older generation people are going to be out of their comfort zone for a long while, and I think if we all band together that makes it a lot easier. 

J: I’ve always been a big supporter of manufacturing. I’m passionate about that, but if I can ask anyone anything right now it’s to make sure you keep buying Australian.  I won’t add anything more than that or otherwise I will get on that soap box.

T: Or if you happen to be from the US, it’s buy American.  It’s basically, “buy local”.  You’ve got to support the economy of your own country.

J:  You do, and I will go so far as to step a little bit outside of the comfort zone for some people.  The responsibility to support Australian manufacturing means you may have to pay a little bit more for it.  But what that means is you also have to have CEOs, shareholders, equity structures, facilitators of funding and banking accept the fact that the return on investment, the profit and dividend they are going to take, is perhaps not as high as it used to be. 

J: Build a bridge and get over it.  Otherwise you won’t have a business and there won’t be any revenue that goes back onto the superannuation funds, or that opportunity for takeover of another multinational.  The reality is big business needs to get on board with this as much as small business. 

J: We deal with some of the biggest groups in Australia, and we love that, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t hard work at times. I think everybody would be of the same opinion that if we can all work together that means that we all need to understand that there is a cost – that ultimately greed is good? Maybe. Not now.

Risk mitigation by Buying Australian

T:  From a full life or whole of life perspective that businesses of all sizes should be looking at their risk profile. And that would include the benefits of buying Australian or buying local – wherever they may be. That you’re not at these risks when exports are suddenly dried up, and you can’t get things shipped here. 

T: There are certainly products, or parts of products that are a part of my own line that I cannot get here in Australia. I’ve tried to find local manufacturers, but the cost difference is so different that nobody will even make it.  It’s certainly understandable from where you’re coming from, but I hope that governments and businesses and consumers alike will recognise the value of buying local.

J: The other side of that is that not every product is not going to work in that application, and that’s reality. We do live in a global economy to a point.  The other thing is the duty of care.

J: When it comes to BPA and phenol free products, one of the things that is really important here is the duty of care.  Knowingly buying products and putting it into the application for staff and customers to have contact with and knowing that that product actually contains something that is banned in Europe, and by the World Health Organization, a few people probably need to have a hard look at themselves.

T:  I think this is probably a conversation with the WHS committees for all of these companies because if they didn’t know then, and they’re hearing this podcast for the first time, they sure know now.

J: Ring us.  We’ve got all the information, and we can provide the chemical research studies as well.

Contact details

T: If people want to know more about your business or you personally Jon, what is the best way to reach out and touch you?

J:  We’re on the web. Sustain Paper if you’re interested in looking at ways of using your products for application to packaging and converting processes.  We bulk supply. Happy to help. There is years of experience and knowledge in our production people and management team.  They love having a chat and are passionate about it. If we can help, we will.

T: Thank you. I will put that information into the transcript so people can find it easier. 

Final Thoughts

T: Jon, I just wanted to thank you and your team for the work you guys are doing. That passion you are talking about that your team has,  it really starts at the top and it’s obvious that you had a personal experience that made you worry about your health and certainly the kind of industry that you were in but you’ve also taken it to the environment to go hand in hand.

T:  A lot of businesses in your industry are still in the past, but you are looking forward and you’re starting to bring types of materials that can be substitutes for plastic and have a much better outcome for the environment, as well as even creating some closed loops for your own products.

T:  So, I really hope that this environmental change that we are seeing right now actually puts you in a really good position for opportunities because you guys are certainly looking at the holistic impact of your business and not just the bottom line. If there are more businesses that do that, it is certainly going to be better for everyone including Australia. So thank you again for your work.

J: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it.

T: Cheers, Jon.