Going for gold…silver and bronze

It certainly has been an interesting week in the life of the national psyche…

The Packaging Federation and myself got an early head start on things last Tuesday July 24th at the successful launch of the Make It In Britain (MIIB) campaign. The MIIB will, I hope and trust, long outlive the circumstances of London’s Olympics and this coming month.

I was delighted to see our Packaging Sector credentials stated strongly at the centre of the campaign mind map. ‘Packaging plays a valuable role in protecting goods. Industry has an interest is keeping packaging to a minimum – to reduce costs as well as to comply with the packaging laws.’  Touch wood, our message is getting through.

Dick Searle pictured here at last week's Make It In Great Britain event with Mark Prisk, UK Government Minister for Business (right)

Dick Searle pictured here at last week’s Make It In Great Britain event with Mark Prisk, UK Government Minister for Business (right).

And on the following Thursday, David Cameron’s speech to the Global Investement Conference, London, had many good things in it. I was particularly encouraged to hear the Government in bullish mood on UK trade: Cameron told his business audience that ‘we have set an ambition of doubling our exports to £1 trillion by 2020. That would get us in line with Germany and match their record level of exports last year. I believe it to be absolutely achievable.’

Cameron added that ‘Britain is already now exporting more goods to the rest of the world than we are to the European Union: If we could increase the number of SME firms that sell overseas from one fifth to one quarter that would add £30billion to our economy, create 100,000 jobs and pretty much wipe out our trade deficit altogether.’

Dare to dream? That quality was certainly in evidence throughout Friday night’s brilliant and moving opening ceremony. Another quality brilliantly demonstrated there was Britain’s world-class level of self-deprecation – thank you once again HRH, Danny Boyle, Rowan Atkinson and all.

Vision, industry, trade and humour. Not a bad set of guiding lights. Our US visitor, Presidential contender Mitt Romney could have had them handy on his week in town. A series of Romney gaffes led most commentators to his 2010 book No Apology in which he described England as ‘just a small island…with few exceptions it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy.’

Any substance to it? Time will tell. And perhaps that cover story will suit the British image just fine as industry and exports grow over the coming years.

But as far as I could tell Friday night’s 1 billion TV viewers were recognizing, appreciating and buying British.

Job done – let’s take it forward.

Many thanks

Dick Searle

The art of moving on….

Dick SearleIn my experience it’s a very strange person or organisation that can’t admit to mistakes. ‘To err is human’ as the saying goes.

The events surrounding and subsequent to the recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers PwC report; Sustainable Packaging: Myth or Reality therefore give me cheer and great confidence.

Readers of that report and of the press coverage over the past two weeks will know that the PwC research and analysis – all the more powerful for its ‘outsider’ status and objectivity  – reached an unambiguous conclusion that ‘sustainable packaging is too broad a term to be useful at a practical level.’ The phrase should therefore be ‘consigned to history’. This is good news.

Not that there is anything wrong at all with the term sustainability: Our friends and colleagues at the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) and ourselves have much to say about it. But from the get-go we have both realised that there can be no such thing as ‘sustainable packaging’. Packaging has no separate existence from product supply. Everything – all factors – within the whole supply and consumption chain are interdependent and contribute to sustainability.

The PwC report has acknowledged these truths: Its findings will now help us all to adjust to the landscape and move on. There has been much good in the exercise. One of the best things about the report and its aftermath was the maturity of responses from all sides. The distinct lack of crowing, for one thing, was impressive and inaudible. One reason? Much of our sector is already out of earshot and is creating real sustainability and efficiencies in the delivery chain.

I would like to make one more point: Much of my working life has been spent in breaking up fights; fights between packaging factions; fights between governments and packaging; fights between packaging and environmentalists.

Lately, it seems to me, we have earned a period of relative peace. We are also seeing a growing convergence of understanding and practice between industry, governments and environmentalists. The last thing we need is a term that distracts us from our common goal.

In that spirit, goodbye sustainable packaging – and long live sustainability – and packaging!

Thanks again

Dick Searle



Long live Brands!

Dick SearleAll power to the British Brands Groups for a great piece of work on packaging – Unwrapped – the hidden power of packaging – which recently launched in London at Unilever House.

Putting aside the excellence of their work, the BBG displays an attitude to packaging that – I’m happy to say – is becoming more widespread these days. This quote is taken from the BBG introduction to the new study:

‘Packaging is integral to modern life, present in every home in the land, preserving and protecting the products we use each day and providing the information on how to use them. In stores of all sizes packaging also speaks the language of commerce, vying for our attention, presenting credentials and influencing our choices. It underpins competition and enhances product performance.’ 

Hear hear – couldn’t have said it better myself.

Brands – and packaging –  both deserve champions these days. None more so than the best of British Brands who, ever since the heady days of post-war advertising, have oftentimes led the world in encouraging effective product design and presentation.

Britain, alas, has also been home to the most misinformed excesses in blaming and scapegoating of any kind of selling, advertising or product branding. Any kind of mis-selling, to be sure, is wrong, as the financial services industries are now finding out to their cost. But neo-Green puritanism is really barking up the wrong tree here.

Branding – as the Unwrapped report reminds us – is critical to the effective functioning of choice in a free market economy. Brands effectively function as signposts; enabling and directing consumer traffic. Where branding is reduced and when copycat or counterfeit branding plays a part, consumer decisions are frustrated, irritated and slowed down. The system slows down; consumer confidence is lost and both sellers and buyers suffer.

And although the arguments against branding per se are thankfully being tackled, brand ‘copycat’ matters have yet to approach their zenith and will surely be an issue for many years hence.

For a full understanding of brands and packaging- please check the reports and summaries now available from the British Brands site on:


Once again – much thanks to the BBG for a timely, intelligent and informed contribution to our industry.

Thanks again

Dick Searle