Capturing the Momentum of Change

Reading the nomination letters submitted by her peers, one thing is clear: Adele Elice-Invaso is a passionate advocate for developing the next generation of leaders and moving our industry into the future. Elice-Invaso received the TAPPI Women in Industry Division’s 2020 Woman of the Year award, which recognizes women who have demonstrated excellence in leading, motivating, and developing others within the pulp, paper, tissue, packaging and related industries. 

Adele Elice-Invaso interacts with members at Appita’s annual Fibre Value Chain Conference.

As executive director of the Australasian Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Association (Appita), she has led the development of new programs to engage young professionals. Fostering a culture of innovation is also a priority, says Professor Gil Garnier of Monash University.

“Under Adele’s leadership, Appita has organized annually a series of symposia, industrial visits, workshops, and discussion forums to present the recent product development, emerging technologies, scientific and engineering discoveries, and disruptive processes,” Garnier notes.

In his support of Elice-Invaso’s nomination, the University of Melbourne’s Dr. Warwick Raverty writes, “No woman in the Australian and New Zealand pulp and paper industry has done more to foster collaboration between that industry and the vital innovations that are going to drive our industry if it is to survive as more than a producer of cellulose-based packaging and health care commodities under constant cost pressures.”

Paper360° Editorial Director Jan Bottiglieri asked Elice-Invaso to comment on what she sees ahead for the industries that Appita serves.

P360°: How has your leadership journey so far prepared you to deal with industry changes due to the current global pandemic?

Elice-Invaso: Throughout my career I have been very fortunate to have had amazing role models. They were leaders who were ahead of their time, progressive thinkers who embraced disruption as normal and inevitable. They demonstrated adaptability and resilience even in the most challenging circumstances. These qualities that I now embrace have, over the years, enabled me to make the tough decisions to ensure Appita remains relevant and solvent.

Being able and willing to adapt your thinking, behavior and strategy based on changing circumstances has been very important in this rapidly changing world. As industries adapt to a new COVID world, I believe the role of industry associations is even more important now and into the future. We have a critical role to play in serving an emerging and different set of member needs during this crisis.

Workplaces will change as social distancing and remote working become part of our everyday lives, and there will be a greater need for social connection. Online forums, training, and virtual events will become the norm and as association leaders we must find new ways to ensure members remain connected, engaged, and have the resources they need.

Are there challenges or opportunities you see as intrinsic to the Australasian pulp, paper, packaging, and bioproducts industries?

The Australian and New Zealand pulp and paper industry has had its fair share of challenges over the years. They include digitalization, the global financial crisis of 2009, forest fires, a waste export ban, and now a global pandemic.

The pandemic is causing widespread concern and economic hardship across the globe and is threatening to have a large personal and commercial impact. Industries are facing unique challenges caused by the crisis, and the pulp, paper, packaging, and bioproducts industries are not immune from the impact of the virus.

With unprecedented demand for some products and an ambiguous outlook for others, businesses are needing to navigate their way through a myriad of challenges, from safeguarding employee wellbeing to supply chain disruption and economic uncertainty. It’s easy to look at the challenges and feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems confronting us today.

However, I’m often reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Out of adversity comes opportunity.” I believe today’s crisis will be the catalyst for change and industry transformation. This pandemic may provide unique opportunities for the pulp, paper, and bioproducts industries as we take advantage of the increasing demand for food packaging, corrugated packaging, personal hygiene paper products, specialty papers, and bioproducts for medical applications.

As Executive Director of Appita, what changes do you see ahead for the industries you serve? How can other industry leaders prepare to meet these changes?

Given the convergence of technological changes, resources concern, and changing consumer behaviors, industry leaders will need to be better prepared to embrace change in order to prepare for the future. A recent McKinsey report outlined that, in a fundamentally changing business landscape, managing short-to-medium-term “grade turbulence,” finding the next level of cost optimization, and finding value-creating growth opportunities will be all important in the future.

The global momentum around sustainability and a circular bioeconomy will continue and is moving industry into a new landscape. McKinsey believes new collaborative structures are replacing industry’s historic linear value chains and that will provide greater opportunities for growth. Companies will explore collaborative opportunities within and outside of their industry. The report notes, “Paper and packaging companies may collaborate more intensively with retailers, consumer-goods companies, and technological experts; and new products such as bio-refinery products requiring novel go-to-market partnerships.”1

An example of this is the Norske Skog Boyer mill’s partnership with the Circa Group, where new technology developed in Australia is targeting global markets for sustainable, safer, and more environmentally-friendly alternatives to existing fossil fuel-based solvents. (See sidebar on facing page.)

As a final note, talent management and retention should be a high priority for CEOs. Developing and retaining a well-prepared talent pool that is adaptable and resilient—and understanding the demands across customer businesses, different products and value chains, and cross-industry collaboration—is essential if businesses are to remain competitive and sustainable.

You were recently honored by TAPPI’s Women in Industry (WIN) Division as Woman of the Year. What advice would you give to other women working toward leadership positions in our industry?

Be true to yourself and back yourself. Make professional and personal development a priority. Take the opportunity to seek out mentors. Find people who you connect with and can learn from. Take the time and effort to build and maintain networks and relationships; don’t underestimate the value these relationships will provide throughout your career. What’s most important is to find a way to create a supportive network that will help challenge and inspire you to achieve something greater.

For any young professional looking to progress their career industry I would say take advantage of all growth opportunities. As IBM’s chairman, president and CEO, Ginni Rometty, once said, “You’ll spot the growth opportunities because they make you uncomfortable. Remember growth and comfort rarely co-exist, so take up the challenge—get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Finally, join an industry association so that you can build your networks and connect with others who can help you on your journey.