DS Smith's Circular Business Model

Our circular business model is focused on sustainable fibre-based packaging and supported by recycling and papermaking operations. We play a central role in the value chain across our customer’s sectors including e-commerce, fast moving consumer goods and industrials.


Our designers and innovators are constantly seeking new opportunities to create circular solutions that eliminate waste and pollution, reuse or recycle products and materials, and regenerate nature. We strive to achieve this through our packaging and processes.

Many of our customers are multinational industry-leading brands who require a global, consistent approach to their packaging; and they are increasingly looking for closer partnerships to grow and innovate with them.

We have continued to position the business to maximise on opportunities for growth by investing in efficiency, innovation and value-added sustainable products and services.

Miles Roberts
Group Chief Executive


Our relationships and resources

We employ c. 29,000 people globally and invest in and develop them so they can realise their potential. Our values and management standards guide how we operate across the following areas:

  • Manufacturing and other physical assets: We have an extensive network of packaging manufacturing sites, paper mills, recycling depots and innovation centres, supported by the infrastructure of the countries in which we operate.
  • Our relationships: We interact in a way consistent with our corporate values to build and maintain trusted relationships with our customers, suppliers, and communities.
  • Intellectual capital: We have substantial customer understanding, innovation, and patented designs.
  • Data and digital: Integration of digital and data will help increase manufacturing capacity and service levels to deliver best in class customer experience.
  • Financial capital: We are funded by a combination of shareholder equity, debt, and reinvested cash flow.
  • Natural capital: We operate a circular model through the recycling of natural material, in particular wood fibre.

How we create value


Our strong relationships with our customers in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), retail and industrial sectors help us gain insights in changing consumer, retail and regulatory trends and how they impact the use of packaging. We use this knowledge to inform our innovation.

Using our insights, we work with our customers to drive innovation in our solutions with optimised packaging, designing out waste and pollution in the process. This involves optimising packaging for efficiency, driving savings through small improvements to the packaging’s dimensions, shape and materials that can be multiplied over thousands of units. This results in a lower environmental impact and/or financial savings across the customer’s supply chain.

We align to our customers’ needs, responding with agility and helping drive their sustainability agenda. Our customers remain keen to use less plastic and improve the sustainability of their packaging. Our Circular Design Metrics make it easy for our customers to compare the sustainability performance of different packaging designs. Our customers are using the metrics to measure and compare the circularity of different solutions at a glance, helping them to select the best solution based on their priorities.


We’re inventing, re-imagining and redefining to deliver the circular economy. Innovation is at the heart of our business and is vital in keeping global supply chains running as they become more integrated, demanding and focused on sustainability.

Innovation is at the heart of our business and this year we have opened a new facility dedicated to R&D. This includes a 4,000m2 pilot hall, four laboratories, conditioning chambers, an ideation and design studio, prototyping areas and collaboration spaces. Projects will be informed by key industry drivers rooted in sustainability, supply chains and data.

As over 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage, enabling circularity through design is essential. Our Circular Design Principles, launched in 2020 in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, provide a framework to stimulate circular design innovation, ensuring that packaging is designed to meet its purpose with minimal environmental impact.

We have been working with biotechnology businesses to explore alternative fibres such as straw, hemp, seaweed and even cocoa shells as alternative fibres for paper and plastic. In an innovative pilot programme with The Research Institute of Sweden (RISE), we explored how the properties of straw and seaweed could potentially work as a packaging product in comparison to more traditional materials including recycled hardwood and softwood.

The DD Wrap is an innovative and sustainable shelf-ready packaging solution. It is circular economy ready while also increasing supply chain efficiency. It is created from a single piece of cardboard without perforation at the front side to improve visibility and appeal at the point of display. The designers have been able to minimise the amount of material and resources used, as well as reduce the size of the boxes, which eliminates empty space.

Our reuse pilots will help us to understand how to support our customers in reaching the reuse targets proposed in the draft EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation. We will pilot reusable packaging solutions with customers and partners as they progress through our innovation stage gate process. We look forward to scaling the pilots where packaging reuse best complements recycling systems, reduces materials and keeps them in use for as long as possible, delivering a better outcome for the planet.


A crucial part of making sure our packaging meets the evolving demands of the supply chain is ensuring that circularity is built in at the start. All of our designers use our Circular Design Principles to improve the sustainability of packaging and we also embedded our Circular Design Metrics across all our packaging sites to ensure that we can measure the environmental impact of all our design solutions. An industry first, our metrics enable us to quantify the sustainability performance of each of our packaging designs across eight key different indicators: carbon footprint, design for reuse, supply chain optimisation, recyclability, planet safety, material utilisation, renewable sourcing and recycled content.

Through our network of designers and PackRight Centres, we create packaging that fulfils our customers’ requirements for all stages of the primary product’s journey, whether replacing plastic, improving protection in transit, ease of identification in the supply cycle, or presenting the primary product to maximise sales.

We collaborated with Coca Cola HBC Austria to replace plastic shrink wrap for 1.5 litre PET soft drink multi-packs with cardboard based outer packaging. The innovative packaging solution, DS Smith LiftUp, is a 100% recyclable corrugated handle which improves carry functionality for consumers and reduces around 200 tonnes of plastic each year for Coca-Cola HBC Austria.

We partnered with a biotech company to create a sustainable, recyclable and temperature controlled packaging solution to replace a current expanded polystyrene product. Using our Circular Design Metrics we created a 100 per cent corrugated based solution that has a better thermal performance than the current EPS solution and is 100 per cent recyclable.

We have developed a plastic-free solution for packaging for a gas boiler for Bosch. The innovative solution has eliminated all plastic packaging parts and has resulted in the removal of 100,000 plastic components.

We have developed a stackable system display for Pepsi [insert link to article]  to launch a new flavour and also reduce supply chain costs. The display was delivered prefilled, making it easy to assemble by staff in store. As with all of our displays, sustainability was at front of mind. The display was designed for the circular economy and was a fully recyclable solution, with no plastic mop tray or gluing required. Moreover, as the display was made from corrugated board it was easily compliant with the supermarket’s recycling waste streams.

We have received the External Business Partners Excellence Award from P&G [insert link to article]. This award recognises our consistently high performance in serving P&G employees throughout the supply chain. Our teams in Spain, Finland and Hungary have received well-deserved recognition at the WorldStar Global Packaging Awards [link to article] for exceptional packaging innovation.


Our paper mills manufacture corrugated case material (CCM) and our corrugated plants convert CCM into corrugated board, then print, cut and pre-glue the boxes, which are then shipped flat on pallets, ready for assembly and filling at our customers’ factories. We maximise the efficiency of our manufacturing, for example, using light-weight papers where possible to reduce the cost and carbon impact of the packaging produced.

We are investing to improve operational and environmental efficiency and increase capacity.

Castelfranco c. €80m investment completed in 2022/23

  • Increased capacity of 155m sqm.
  • +75 per cent labour efficiency improvement.

Lucca c. €250m net investment – replacement and upgrade of end of life line

  • 2.5x faster running.
  • 40 per cent more energy efficient.
  • Additional capacity of 270,000 tonnes.

Viana c. €145m investment – replacement and upgrade

  • €45m on upgrade to paper line.
  • Incremental capacity came on-line October 2023.
  • Adding 30,000 tonnes of extra kraft top paper.

We have partnered with E.ON at our mill in Aschaffenburg to build a new waste-to-energy and combined heat and power plant which will be operated by E.ON, resulting in significant energy costs, capex savings and CO2 emission reduction of c. 50,000 tonnes.

We are investing €90 million (including €15 million subsidy) in a new biomass boiler in Rouen, entering a long-term biomass supply and electricity offtake agreement. This is an environmental and efficiency investment reducing CO2 emissions by c. 99,000 tonnes and delivering strong returns. This project is one of a number of initiatives in Europe and North America that are/will contribute to DS Smith’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 46% in absolute terms by 2030, compared with 2019 levels. We are also participating in the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) with our 1.5°C science-based target in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The value we create

  • Satisfied customers: We develop packaging that helps our customers appeal more to consumers, sell more, reduce costs, manage risks and become circular-ready.
  • Packaging that is sustainable: Our packaging is usually fully recyclable and made from largely recycled material. We recycle more packaging than we produce.
  • Replacing plastic: We have replaced over 1.2 billion units of plastic with alternative fibre-based solutions since 2020.
  • Returns to our capital providers: Investors benefit from strong operational and financial performance.
  • Safety and opportunity for our people: We aim to create equality of opportunity for people to grow and develop throughout their career in a safe working environment.
  • Leadership in sustainability: We are leading the transition on packaging sustainability through our engagement with major organisations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
  • Community involvement: We have an active programme of community involvement in addition to satisfying a societal need for recyclable packaging.