PROPAK Industry: Sustainable, innovative and crisis-proof

Industrial manufacturers of paper and cardboard products have come through the pandemic year 2020 stable and ready for the upswing.

Vienna (OTS) - A crisis-proof branch of industry takes stock. While the economy in Austria suffered a massive slump (minus 2020 percent) due to COVID-19 in 6,6, the PROPAK industry was well above GDP. "With a slight decrease of -0,2 percent in value (2,4 billion euros) and +1,6 percent in volume (1,2 million tons), the PROPAK industry steered robustly through the first year of the pandemic," says PROPAK chairman Georg-Dieter Fischer. "There are many reasons for this: the high level of creativity of our operations, the relevance at the point of sale and the sustainability of our products and service solutions."

Driver e-commerce

Online shopping is an unbroken growing trend and a driver, especially in the packaging sector. “Much more is required here than a pure transport medium. Customers expect a holistic experience - from ordering to unpacking - and demand sustainable, simply designed and visually appealing packaging. This is where we as a manufacturer are particularly challenged! ”Continued Fischer.

High export intensity, flat employment trend

At 78 percent, export was again responsible for the PROPAK economy. PROPAK companies earn three out of four euros abroad. The industry exported a total of 792.000 tonnes (+ 0,3%) of paper and cardboard products to the value of 1,85 billion euros (-2,1%). This contrasted with an import volume of 546.000 tons (-3,0%) worth 1,24 billion euros (-7,7%). The stable economic development in the PROPAK branch resulted in such an employment situation. Due to the stability of the industry, the number of employees fell only slightly to 8.710 employees (-1,6%). Short-time work only had to be used sporadically across the industry.

Growth prospects for 2021 and 2022 significantly improved

The economic analysis for 2020 shows very clearly that global economic crises hit small, highly networked economies like Austria particularly hard. "The breaking of international supply chains and extensive travel restrictions led to a sometimes dramatic decline in export revenues," says Doris Ritzberger-Grünwald, Director of the OeNB's Economics Department. But it also confirms: “The production of goods made from paper and cardboard has developed comparatively well. The employment situation in the PROPAK industry is also more robust than that of the industry as a whole. ”The growth prospects of the IMF and the European Commission for 2021 (3,5%) and 2022 (over 4%) have surprisingly improved significantly recently.

Security of supply through circular economy

"Products made of paper and cardboard are a clear commitment to sustainability," says Andreas Blaschke, CEO of Mayr-Melnhof Packaging International. “The proportion of recycled material is on average 75 percent, the recycling rate for packaging made of paper and cardboard in Austria is even 90 percent, which is already well above the EU target of 75 percent by the year 2025. The functioning of the collection of waste paper is important But it is also a key to security of supply. ”The scarcity of raw materials poses challenges for the industry. Despite some significant delivery delays and some delivery failures, the supply of customers and end consumers is assured.

Over-bureaucratization and ideology

However, the industry is concerned about the upcoming amendment to the Waste Management Act (AWG). "In addition to a massive build-up of bureaucracy, there is a risk of huge encroachments on fundamental freedoms, not only for the economy but also for consumers," warns Blaschke. “Particularly worrying are the unreflected subsidies for reusable packaging at the expense of our closed-cycle packaging.” Despite all the studies that clearly show that there are no clear advantages for a system here, the climate protection ministry and its advisors want to intervene in prices to address the reusable ideology to push. And Blaschke appeals: “Paper fibers can be recycled up to 25 times, which can definitely be seen as reusable at the material level. We call on the legislature to rethink the incomprehensible one-sided approach in the amendments belonging to the circular economy package and not to discriminate against a circular economy! "

PROPAK as an employer: Looking for skilled workers!

"The corona pandemic only temporarily dampened the shortage of skilled workers in our industry," reports Marko Bill Schuster, COO of Mondi Functional Paper and Films. Despite high unemployment, 80 percent of companies state in a recent survey that the availability of skilled workers in particular is difficult, while 20 percent are currently unable to fill qualified jobs. "We'll get through, but it will be more difficult," says Schuster.

The situation is similar with the apprentices. The industry is currently training 224 apprentices in 18 different professions. “Despite the range of attractive career paths, it is difficult to attract young workers to our industry,” reports Schuster. The main reasons are the decline in apprenticeship seekers due to the “don't stay seated rule” against the background of the general image problem of teaching.

Transformation-security of supply-worker protection

The pandemic is the driver of the transformation, which in view of the different requirements between production and administration demanded a lot of strength and creativity from the companies. "The primary goal was and is to maintain the production capability and supply of the customers and to protect the health of the employees," says Arnold Tautermann-Bichler, Managing Director of the DPI Group. The definition of preventive measures was supported by the professional association PROPAK with a COVID-19 guide for the industry. "This best practice guide breaks down measures of risk analysis, hygiene requirements, various rules of conduct for employees and customer flows, equalization measures, etc. into the essential areas in the company," says Tautermann-Bichler.

Ready for the upswing

According to the PROPAK survey, the majority of companies expect fundamentally solid growth in 2021, which, however, is expected to be potentially flatter compared to the overall economy - as past cycles have shown. However, the companies are faced with high pressure on added value due to enormous cost inflation - not only for raw materials. PROPAK chairman Fischer: “The times are challenging, but the PROPAK industry is a sustainable and innovative branch and is ready for an upswing. The prerequisite is and will remain the rapid vaccination and control of the pandemic. The sooner the corona measures can be lifted and the right course is set, the stronger the upswing will be. "

Employer branding as a strategy

“And for that we need committed employees,” concluded Fischer. That is why the PROPAK branch has developed an employer branding strategy that aims to make the sector even better known and to support companies even more in their search for qualified specialists. "Because the industry offers an innovative, exciting and stable working environment for the future."

About PROPAK The professional association PROPAK and the association PROPAK Austria represent the industrial manufacturers of paper and cardboard products in Austria. 85 companies with around 8.710 employees process and refine around 1,2 million tons of paper and cardboard annually into corrugated cardboard, packaging, paper goods for hygiene and household, office and organizational materials, books, brochures, tipping paper and other paper goods. www.propak.at

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