How our Brand Purpose is driving us forward in an ever-changing world

It has been nearly two years since we launched our Purpose: ‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World.’ Little did we know then just how much, and how rapidly the world would change. And how inspiring our Purpose would be as it took on a whole new meaning as a result of Covid-19.

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Our Purpose is more than words on paper

Most world-class organisations have a clear company purpose at their core – it’s the reason they exist, the core thought that drives everything the business does.

At DS Smith, we have always been driven by sustainability and our desire to make a difference for our customers, communities and the planet as a whole. But it is only recently that we were able to succinctly distil our Purpose into six words.

As we mark the anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdowns across Europe, it seems remarkable that only 12 months ago it was business as usual and we were hosting over 30 sustainability and plastic replacement workshops across the continent each week. But as the pandemic spread, our focus rapidly switched. As a critical part of the supply chain we worked hard to ensure we continued to operate efficiently and safely and we soon found ourselves supporting our customers with huge shifts in consumer behaviour.

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At the same time, it became evident just how far our Purpose was already embedded in our business as it began to take on a life of its own. Across all our European and North American sites, our people began reacting to the ‘changing world’ outside their own doors by donating their time, money and skills to supporting local hospitals, key workers, families and vulnerable people in these difficult times.

In Italy for example our employees donated much-needed PPE. In France over 100,00 model planes made from recycled paper were given to children. In the UK 3D printers were turned over to making safety visors for hospital staff. In Slovenia computers were donated to schools. In Spain, food parcels were handed out. The list goes on. As a company we were able to put the full force and resources of our Packaging, Paper and Recycling Divisions behind us and partner with our like-minded customers; providing free boxes for a distillery that had switched its production from spirits to hand sanitizer for example.


By the end of Lockdown 1 we had collectively donated hundreds of thousands of Euros and over half a million items to help fight Covid-19. We could not have been more proud and it was such a powerful demonstration of our Purpose at work.

We are proud of our Purpose

We live in an age where we demand goods to be delivered where we want, when we want, in a way that fits our busy lifestyles. Of course, Covid-19 has meant this is the case now more than ever, and digital technology is continuing to revolutionise the way we shop and live.

People want more choice, they want everything to be even more convenient. But we want to have less impact on the planet too. It’s our purpose to help our customers respond to changing shopping habits with the sustainable packaging solutions that society needs.

‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World’ reflects the need for a new approach to packaging, for strong leadership. So our Purpose keeps driving the business and our people forward. We’re proud of it, but remain humble as we know we must constantly live up to the challenge of ‘Redefining’ – it’s in the present, it’s always happening, it’s what we’ll continue to do into the future. 

Our Purpose also captures the DS Smith business model: a closed loop model in which we design and produce packaging for customers, recycle fibre and use the recycled paper products to create new packaging.

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Our Group Chief Executive, Miles Roberts, said in our 2020 Sustainability Report: “The opportunity is to move from having a strong circular business model ourselves to delivering more circular solutions for our customers and wider society – replacing problem plastics, taking carbon out of supply chains and providing innovative recycling solutions.”

A quick note on the circular economy: The traditional economic model is one where manufacturers extract natural resources, process and combine them to create products they can sell. A customer will then buy, re-sell or consume, and eventually dispose of the product when it’s no longer needed. This is known as the ‘take, make, waste’ model. The circular economy model proposes that there’s an alternative: where we can design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use for longer, and regenerate natural systems.

We became a Strategic Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation because we wanted a partner to challenge us, to help us drive design and innovation, and to embed our circular economy thinking even further into the business. Together we have been exploring opportunities to redefine packaging.

A Purpose that drives us forward

There are many manifestations of Purpose in company, from corporate planning to innovation pipeline, all of which are interconnected and that’s what makes it powerful. Since joining forces with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation our business has launched its Circular Design Principles, and even during Covid-19 we have been able to launch our Now and Next’ Sustainability Strategy. This lays out how we are Redefining Packing for a Changing World, and confirms our commitment to the circular economy. It also details some really challenging targets, based on five core pillars, which include educating the next generation about the benefits and practicalities of circular economy.

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By keeping our values front of mind our people bring our Purpose to life. We are committed to being caring, challenging, trusted, responsive and tenacious and we must strive to be these things every day. If we do that we have the opportunity to use our skills, resources and our people to find the answers to some of the world’s biggest sustainability challenges.

After all, a purpose needs to show how a brand is able to add value not just to its customers' lives, but to our society and the wider world.