skip to main content

No. 1 in supply chain

Pung Speaker Series: Packaging for a sustainable future

By Taylor Hindman, student writer
Monday, February 19, 2024

On Jan. 25, David Feber (B.S. Civil Engineering ’94) kickstarted the new year as a featured speaker in the 2023–24 Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series. After graduating as a Spartan engineer, Feber’s academic journey included completing a master’s in civil engineering at Wayne State University, followed by an MBA degree in strategy, marketing and finance at the University of Michigan. In his career, Feber served in executive roles for Amcor, a global leader in the packaging industry, spanning seven years.

Today, he is senior partner at McKinsey & Company, a worldwide strategy and management consulting firm — and the oldest and largest of the “Big Three” management consultancies. As the leader of McKinsey’s Packaging Service Line team based in Detroit, his purpose is to help create positive, enduring change in the world. The company’s core values focus on maintaining the highest professional standards, significantly improving clients’ performance and creating an unrivaled environment.

In today’s business landscape, the packaging industry continues to stand as a trillion-dollar sector. Despite facing challenges in previous years, such as growing labor costs, inflationary pressures and the push for sustainability, the industry navigates these obstacles and continues to evolve.

Feber noted that “sustainability has been talked about forever when it comes to packaging, but it really hit a tipping point probably two years ago. [This is] when capital markets started to reward companies based on their sustainability, sustainable narratives and their sustainable clients.”

Throughout Feber’s presentation, he used a plastic water bottle as an example, first asking the room full of students about the bottle’s sustainability. The majority of the class raised their hands to show they believed that the water bottle was not sustainable. However, Feber explained that plastic water bottles such as that one are more sustainable and recyclable than packaging for boxed water, which is cardboard lined with thin plastic. The challenge, he explained, lies in how difficult it is for recycling facilities to efficiently separate this type of plastic.

Feber further explained that no single packaging solution is flawless — all of the solutions have their specific tradeoffs.

“These small changes in consumer preference have massive changes on supply chains.”

“If you think about this example of plastic and paper, if I am manufacturing a plastic bottle, when I switch to paper, it is a completely different manufacturing process. These small changes in consumer preference have massive changes on supply chains, and this is one that is going to be a very big issue,” Feber said.

For this reason, consumers, regulators and brands are driving change when it comes to sustainable packaging. Feber explained that by 2025, companies like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and P&G will aspire to have 100% recyclable packaging. In addition, new reusable operating models will require unique packaging solutions that are sustainable and more durable. For more information regarding McKinsey & Company’s sustainability efforts, explore the latest articles on the Featured Insights tab on their website.

More information on the upcoming 2023–24 Pung Speaker Series, as well as information on past events, is available via the Full-Time MBA program.

Media Contact:

In Other News:

Bob Burgess in the Minskoff Pavilion
Business leader, philanthropist and Michigan State University alumnus Bob Burgess passed away Tuesday, April 2, 2024.
Box of Groovy Donuts with a hand reaching in to take one.
MSU alumni Andrew and Monica Gauthier spoke to students to share their sweet entrepreneurial journey.
A pile of MSU diplomas at a commencement ceremony.
Gleeson (B.A. Marketing ’87) will share life lessons and inspire graduates at the Breslin Center April 27.