What is your job exactly ?
Clémence Droit - My job starts when clients issue us with an invitation to tender for packaging. I oversee the full process with our sales team, from the tender right through to the delivery of the finished packaging. This includes quoting the price for each piece of packaging, the choice of material, the tint, and so on.
What made you choose packaging as a career, and what excites you about the sector?
Clémence Droit - I’ve always cared deeply about the environment, and I wanted to work at the source of the problem so I could fix it. My aim was to have a positive impact by pushing the clients and customers I worked with to make sustainable choices.
I studied mechanical engineering with a specialty in plastics and composites processing. This led to my current position at Qualipac, where I work on developing and using packaging materials with a lower environmental impact.
What are the packaging challenges that you want to overcome?
Clémence Droit - Sustainability ! However, it’s much more complicated than I expected. ‘Sustainability’ is a vague term that can cover a number of areas, and so it is often the case where we need to find a balance between the different needs and expectations of the suppliers such as Qualipac, our clients, the brands, and the final consumers.
The perfect sustainable material does not always exist or can lead to more difficulties in the following processes. An alternative material may be more expensive, it might not have the required impact on emissions or recyclability, or it may not be viable from a time, cost, or quantity standpoint. This is where the need for balance comes in.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, especially when it comes to cosmetics. We need to adapt each packaging solution to the needs of its particular application, taking into account the product needs, consumer demands, market regulations, and so on.
What is unique in your approach to packaging? How does it play an essential role in your company/the industry?
Clémence Droit - When you are a woman in your twenties, ready to shake things up, it can be disturbing for others in a traditionally male-dominated industry. I am the only female project manager, working alongside people who have been there forever - 30 to 40 years in some cases. I break the mold, suggesting new ideas and new ways of thinking.
My credibility and legitimacy can be challenged at times. For example, in the past, I have been told I did not look like a project manager or a mechanical engineer. As if mechanical engineering and femininity are not compatible.
The more they tell me that, the more it drives me to show them it doesn’t change the way I manage my projects, and it doesn’t affect their quality.
On the supplier side, my age and gender have influenced how I am treated, but on the brand side, we tend to deal with both men and women who have a more modern mindset.
What do you see as the future of packaging?
Clémence Droit - The future requires compromises between all stakeholders – suppliers, brands, and final consumers. In our industry, we care more about packaging than consumers do – consumers generally don’t see all the small details and faults that I can pick out in a finished pack. In that sense, we, in the industry and brands, are the problem.
If we want to make the world a better place with packaging, we need to stop being afraid and say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Compromising your perfect vision means taking more time than you planned, getting out of your comfort zone, accepting smaller margins, and breaking the culture of overconsumption.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
Clémence Droit - I work on multisite and multimaterial projects. It’s great to combine the skills of each sites (plastic, glass, aluminium) to be able to offer clients the most sustainable solution, made with greener materials and processes, to limit our impact.
In my previous work experience, I was working with a client wishing to reuse its waste into caps. Say they only used part of a flower for production of their skincare, they were looking to use the floral waste to make the cap for this product.
What piece of advice would you share with young professionals out there looking to make an impact in packaging?
Clémence Droit - Dare. If no one dares, we can’t progress. Work at your own pace and don’t be afraid to disrupt others.
If you wear your values on your sleeve, people may not take the initiative themselves, but they can follow you. Make sure to seize any opportunities that present themselves – even if it’s not always fun or comfortable in the short term.
What does it mean to you to be selected as a Future Leader?
Clémence Droit - I dared, and here I am! I’m delighted to represent the youth in this industry, and to be an agent of change for a sustainable future. I can’t wait to meet people from different backgrounds who will bring unique ideas to the table.