“Packaging is super important. When you enter a shop you notice the packaging before the product. It catches your eye and can influence what you decide to buy. But more importantly, the packaging protects the product and helps it to last longer,” Youssouf Traoré points out.
Packaging in an Orkla context means vast quantities of tins, bags, bottles, jars and boxes made from materials such as metal, glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and corrugated cardboard. In fact, the Orkla Group spends NOK 3-4 billion a year on purchasing packaging. These purchases are managed centrally by Orkla Group Procurement in close cooperation with the Purchasing Departments of the local companies in those countries where Orkla has production and distribution facilities. In his capacity as Category Manager responsible for cardboard packaging, Youssouf is helping to ensure that Orkla’s products have the right cardboard packaging.
“When we use so much packaging, it is essential that we have the right type of packaging for our products. If we use the wrong packaging the consequences could be dire. Not just financially, but also from an environmental point of view,” emphasises Youssouf.
“So what exactly is wrong packaging?
“We might call it problem packaging. For example, it could include materials that cannot be recycled. Or packaging in which the materials, such as aluminium and plastic, have been blended in a way that makes it difficult for consumers to sort them for recycling purposes. We are committed to finding good, sustainable solutions – and that means having suppliers who can offer or contribute towards the development of such solutions.”
Name: Youssouf Traore
Position: Category Manager, Cardboard
Department: Orkla Group Procurement
Employed by Orkla since: October 2020
Youssouf’s best advice for anyone wanting to work for Orkla:“Be curious! You’re surrounded by very talented people who can inspire you and give you the boost you need. And be brave, present your best ideas and input because forward-thinking and innovation are all part of what we do.”
Targeted climate and environmental efforts
In recent years, Orkla has worked purposefully in order to improve the environmental and climate footprint of its packaging, as part of its sustainability strategy. One example is its FUN Light bottles, which are now made entirely from recycled plastic. Detergents such as Zalo, Blenda and Jif are being poured into bottles and bags that are being made from increasing amounts of recycled plastic. The design of packaging is also being changed in order improve the company’s footprint. One example includes the cartons used for dietary supplements, because these are now square instead of round so that more boxes can fit on a pallet – thus enabling the transport of more product and less air than previously.
This initiative has been noticed. In 2021, Orkla was awarded Green Dot Norway’s Plastic Promise prize for reducing the use of so-called virgin plastics on a large scale. In recent years individual employees have also won many prizes for their commitment to more environmentally friendly packaging. Orkla has also been ranked for several years in a row as one of the world’s best performing listed companies in respect of climate management, in an assessment carried out by the investor initiative CDP. In 2019, the company also decided to support the UN Global Impact Campaign for Business, which commits businesses around the world to do their bit in achieving the 1.5-degree target. Orkla’s own goal is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 63 per cent by 2025 and 77 per cent by 2040.
Proud of his job
“I’m proud to be part of a larger team working to improve our environmental footprint. I have a personal commitment to the environment and it feels right to be involved in doing something specific rather than just sitting and talking about it. It’s exciting when you see things happening,” says Youssouf.
I’m proud to be part of a larger team working to improve our environmental footprint.
“What is your role in this major environmental work?
“I have close contact with suppliers and look for possible synergy opportunities, so that each factory gets the right packaging for its products. It is not always necessary to find one super provider to supply everyone. Sometimes we opt for local solutions for local factories, while at other times we find more central solutions. The whole point is that I shall have an overview in order to build a portfolio of suppliers that are in line with Orkla’s goal of optimising the value chain and ensuring innovation and sustainability in close cooperation with our local companies. It is therefore important to be adaptable, because our companies manage themselves and have their own procedures and processes – one solution does not always suit everyone,” says Youssouf, adding:
“One of the most exciting and rewarding things about this job is gathering knowledge from the supplier market and transferring it to our companies. A lot is happening on the market and many people are working on good alternative and sustainable solutions. If we transfer these solutions to our own production operations and out to our customers, it’s one way in which we can continue towards our sustainability journey. This also includes social sustainability – we want to connect with suppliers who are strong enough to survive a crisis. We want to contribute to a healthy supply chain so that the market is competitive over time.”
Employed during lockdown
When asked what his typical workday looks like, Youssouf laughs a bit first and then replies that it is difficult to say:
“It depends entirely on where we are in the year. Sometimes I am working on category plans and strategies. In such cases I have to plan and initiate individual projects on the basis of our strategies. This involves many one-on-one meetings with both local purchasing departments and then suppliers. Usually we also visit our companies in the Orkla Group in order to present plans and discuss various solutions. In this particular job, I haven’t been able to travel much yet – I was employed in the middle of the pandemic.”
“What was that like?”
“Lockdowns were taking place everywhere, so it wasn’t that easy to just get going and get to know people. However, I felt included in my team from day one and I am surrounded by incredibly smart, talented people. This invigorates me and provides me with lots of inspiration. There is always someone who I can bounce things off and obtain input from. In addition, Orkla as a group provides its employees with great opportunities for further education and self-development. We have our own academy, even in the Purchasing Department. I have an exciting and interesting workplace.”
Good overview – and details
“What does it take to become a Category Manager with Orkla?
“Academically you should probably have studied economics, procurement, supply chains or other relevant subjects. But it is also great if you have a background that opens up other perspectives. That is something that is both needed and appreciated. Then you need to understand how to manage a category. You need to be able to manage projects and show that you have the ability to adopt a helicopter perspective while simultaneously being good at mastering the details. And then it’s a good idea to be familiar with Excel, which is an invaluable work tool,” says Youssouf, who has “always” worked with procurement.
When discussing things with people in a private context, I can hold my head high in the knowledge that we’re doing what we can – and that we’re doing it in a proper, admirable way.
“I have previously been involved in both the food and drinks industry and the technology trade. But I returned to consumer goods because I like working in this field. And then there’s my sustainability commitment. Being somewhere where you’re doing something that’s driving society in the right direction. I know a bit about that. When discussing things with people in a private context, I can hold my head high in the knowledge that we’re doing what we can – and that we’re doing it in a proper, admirable way. That feels good.”