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Interview with Aswathy Koottummel and Roland Wassermann 



Roland, you have been Corporate Director at ALPLA since mid-2022 and are responsible for the areas of strategy, sustainability and the circular economy – what appeals to you about your new role?

Roland: Several years ago, ALPLA recognised how integrally these three topics are linked and created the position of Corporate Director of Strategy, Sustainability & Circular Economy. Even today, this is the exception in other companies, although the issues are very closely related and mutually supportive. The fact that ALPLA has been taking this interplay into account in organisational terms for many years is a clear sign of how visionary and innovative ALPLA thinks about sustainability.

Roland Wassermann
Corporate Director Strategy Sustainability & Circular Economy

How do strategy, sustainability and the circular economy interlink in everyday life?

Roland: I am in daily contact with my team colleagues who work on the topics of sustainability, strategy and the circular economy. There’s practically no day that goes by when I’m not involved with all three teams. For me, it is important that sustainability is not seen as an isolated topic, but as an integral cross-cutting issue. As a whole team, we look at the dynamic market changes from a sustainability perspective as well as from a strategic perspective. We therefore see sustainability developments as an opportunity not only from an ecological point of view, but also from an economic point of view – regardless of whether the developments are driven by us and our partners or dictated by regulatory framework conditions.

Moreover, the implementation of all the above-mentioned topics requires close interaction with management, regional managers, country managers and our colleagues in the various functional departments at headquarters. The fact that I am the contact person for colleagues and stakeholders on both strategic questions and sustainability topics further encourages the close interlinking of these issues. This makes it easier for us as a team to bring a global and truly holistic view of strategic and sustainability issues to the company.


What are your tasks exactly?

Roland: Together with my colleagues, I see my job as laying the groundwork for us to do the right things first – for example, to develop business models that are sustainable and ideally have a close link to the circular economy. Secondly, it is also about ensuring that what we do operationally is done in a sustainable manner and, for example, we work systematically to reduce our carbon footprint.


What is your vision for ALPLA in terms of sustainability?

Roland: In my view, ALPLA has proven over the past decades that a company with a strategy strongly oriented towards the circular economy and sustainability can become a very successful ‘hidden champion’. Our still quite new purpose statement, ‘We provide solutions for a safe, affordable and sustainable future – worldwide and for all people’, sums up what we stand for excellently, in my view.

My vision is that, even under sometimes challenging conditions such as phases characterised by epidemics, wars, inflation and shortages of skilled workers, we will succeed not only in maintaining the course of our integral vision of strategy, sustainability and the circular economy, but also in further expanding it as a driver of success, and thus create a solid basis for sustainable profitable growth. From a sustainability perspective, one of the biggest challenges will be to simultaneously push ahead with the decarbonisation of our business to the required extent in parallel with the projected significant business growth. With this goal in mind, we are working closely with our partners, such as our customers and suppliers, along the value chain.


Aswathy, you have been working in Corporate Sustainability since 2020. How has the sustainability agenda developed within ALPLA in the last two years?

Aswathy: When I joined the company in 2020, ALPLA was already at the forefront of sustainability compared to our competitors. Particularly in the area of the circular economy, we defined at an early stage how this concept could affect our business model and how we could contribute to promoting a circular economy. By expanding our recycling infrastructure and increasing our recycling capacity, we have sent a clear signal around the world.

Even before that, our focus was not only on doing the right thing, but also on making our operational activities as sustainable as possible. This includes tracking our carbon equivalent emissions on a global scale. What was a voluntary measure at the time and symbolised our commitment has now become mandatory. Customers are increasingly demanding responsibility in their supply chains and paying close attention to how we integrate ESG issues into our strategy and what our goals are.

Because sustainability is no longer just a nice addition, but a must-have. This is particularly evident in the fact that some customers even want to include certain sustainability commitments in their contracts with us and regularly review our performance in this area. For us, this means that it is all the more important to ensure that sustainability is not just seen as a separate objective, but is an integral part of our corporate strategy and that the issues complement each other.

Aswathy Koottummel
Corporate Sustainability & Circular Economy Expert

What do you enjoy most about your work and where do you see the biggest challenges?

Aswathy: I appreciate the fact that my work contributes to the global sustainability agenda as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Promoting sustainable packaging solutions and business practices as well as recycling helps to reduce pollution, support sustainable industry and reduce the global carbon footprint.

It is essential that ALPLA takes a holistic view of the concept of sustainability and strives to integrate environmental and social aspects into all areas of the company. However, this also presents challenges, as it is important to take regional cultures and regulations into consideration while not losing sight of long-term goals and ambitions for sustainable development of the company.

This sometimes also requires rethinking outdated thought patterns and breaking down silos inside and outside the company. For example, we are finding it increasingly important to demand more transparency in our supply chain as well, in order to really achieve positive change throughout the value chain.

Close collaboration among all stakeholders is the only way to ensure that a comprehensive sustainability strategy is successfully implemented.